We all know smoking is bad for us, right? But not all smokers realize just how addictive, costly and dangerous smoking is in the long haul.

That’s because a majority of new smokers are kids.

In Missouri, nearly 20 percent of our high school students are already smoking, and 31,900 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year. In an attempt to turn the tide, kids in Missouri will take center stage in the fight against discount cigarettes on Wednesday for the annual Kick Butts Day.

Sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against discount cigarettes use. Part of the theme is a fight-back against discount cigarettes companies that target youths in the marketing of cigarettes and other discount cigarettes products.

Discount cigarettes use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. Adults are making strides in quitting cigarettes — usually after the first attack on their health. But, it’s a different story with our children. Most of them never consider the cigarette they try today will become the habit they are still fighting 20 years later.

Aggressive education programs about the dangers of smoking are needed in our state. Missouri ranks 48th in the nation in funding programs that would help prevent youths from smoking.

Even sadder, our state will collect $245 million this year from the 1998 discount cigarettes settlement and discount cigarettes taxes, but will spend almost none of it on discount cigarettes prevention, even though that was our promise.

We’re robbing the futures of our children if we don’t take a hard line on funding for prevention.

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