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Today is the day to Kick Butt

By Ed Brock

Today is the day for Georgia's youth to Kick Butts.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is sponsoring various events around the Atlanta area as part of its national Kick Butts Day program to educate young people about the effects of smoking cigarettes.

Events across the country include mock funerals for the Marlboro Man to a "Tobacco-Free Jamboree" in Augusta. The Georgia Association of Nursing Students is hosting a legislative breakfast at the Legislative Office Building across from the Georgia Capitol from 8 to 11 a.m.

Clayton College & State University nursing student Al Braun is helping to organize that event. He hopes it will bring together local high school students with legislators to discuss issues like Senate Bill No. 90 that would ban smoking in some public places.

"Especially now it's more relevant than ever," Braun said.

The bill has passed both the Senate and the House and is awaiting the governor's signature. It's a little watered down, Braun said, but it's still a good piece of legislation.

Braun said he's certain that two health classes from Forest Park High School will come to the breakfast.

In Clayton County, however, the big event will be April 29 when "Mr. Butts" will go on trial again.

Last year Shenita Scott's organization Youth Under Construction, Inc. held its first trial of Mr. Butts (aka cigarettes), accusing him of harming and even killing thousands of young people.

"Although it was hilarious I think the message came across very clear," Scott said.

The trial will be in a real courtroom at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro and is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Youths from 4-H of Clayton County and the Clayton County Youth Advisory Council co-sponsor the mock trial.

Though he plays Mr. Butts himself in the trial, 17-year-old James Scales of Riverdale is totally opposed to smoking.

"What kids and other people don't understand is that it kills, actually," Scales said. "It is uncool to use substances like that."

Joshua Martin, 17, of Jonesboro plays Mr. Butts' defense attorney, but he has no defense for people who smoke cigarettes.

"Anybody who wants to live healthy should abstain from tobacco," Martin said.

Martin and Scales say they do believe cigarette companies target young people. According to Tobacco-Free Kids, one company has begun marketing candy and fruit flavored cigarettes.

In Georgia, 20.9 percent of high school students smoke and 21,400 young people become daily smokers every year, according to Tobacco-Free Kids.

Tobacco use kills about 10,700 Georgia residents annually and costs the state $2.1 billion in health care bills.