BRAWLEY — Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley took part in the national “Kick Butts Day” March 20, a day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up, and seize control against tobacco. Youth, hospital members, the public health department and members of the tobacco coalition picked up cigarette butts around the Pioneers Memorial Hospital campus to educate youth and spread awareness of the dangers of smoking.
“Pioneers Memorial Hospital is a smoke-free building with signs all around that say ‘no smoking,’ but people do come outside, unfortunately, and smoke cigarettes,” said Tobacco Coalition Chairperson Linda Shaner. “We see people helping out today collecting cigarette butts. We love to have people who want to fight big tobacco be a part of our coalition.”
“We’re keeping our community not only free from cigarette butts but clean and safe as cigarettes carry harmful chemicals,” said Frank Salazar, director of communications and public affairs of Pioneers Memorial healthcare district. “Our mission is to provide quality health care and part of that is saying ‘no’ to big tobacco.”
While the number of cigarette users is decreasing, the use of electronic smoking devices, or e-cigarettes, is increasing. The Tobacco Coalition calls it “the new tobacco.” That increase is mainly coming from today's youth. Activities like “Kick Butts Day” helps to educate youth on the effect that tobacco has on health and the environment. Fifteen percent of youth in Imperial County smoke e-cigarettes or other electronic smoking devices. Smoking one pod of the popular e-cigarette device “JUUL” is the equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes — a whole pack. Youths who smoke e-cigarettes are four times more likely to become addicted to tobacco than adults.
“Today is a way to prove that people still dispose of cigarette butts in areas that prohibit smoking,” said Mario Salinas, organizer of the event and member of the Tobacco Coalition representing Pioneers Memorial. “We’ve seen lots of youth using different forms of tobacco products, so we’re trying to educate the youth and public of the dangers of smoking ... We’ve collected close to a thousand cigarette butts today that we’re going to properly dispose of.”
“Smoking near the hospital is harmful to patients inside the hospital, especially cancer patients in remission that can be exposed to secondhand smoke,” said Daniel Curiel, a Pioneers Hospital youth volunteer. “It breaks my heart to see people my age smoke ... Even though some are aware of the dangers of vaping, some think it's not that bad, when it's actually worse than smoking cigarettes ... It’s difficult to be exposed to that,” said Curiel.