Dear Annie: As a youth anti-tobacco advocate, I'm incredibly proud of our country's progress against tobacco. We've cut smoking among high school seniors by nearly 70 percent since 1997. I know we can make the next generation tobacco-free, but we've got a lot of work left to do.
Tobacco is still the No. 1 cause of preventable death in our country. It kills nearly half a million Americans each year, most of whom started smoking as kids. The tobacco industry spends billions on marketing, and they use slick ads and sweet flavors that attract kids under 21.
My state of Hawaii is leading the way in winning this fight. Last year, I joined with other advocates to push for a law prohibiting tobacco sales to anyone under 21. When I testified at a hearing, I realized my voice could make a difference in my community and state. The law passed, and on Jan. 1, Hawaii became the first state to raise the tobacco age to 21. Our U.S. Senator Brian Schatz has introduced a bill in Congress to raise the age nationally.
Across America, young people are fighting Big Tobacco. On March 16, we'll hold Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. We'll share our stories using iKickButts. Together, we will create the first tobacco-free generation. -- Sabrina Ray Olaes
Dear Sabrina Ray Olaes: That would really be something we all could be proud of. It's amazing how many young people are still unaware of the long-term dangers of smoking when they pick up that first cigarette. Or they think those risks don't apply to them, and they can quit any time. It's not so. We hope our readers will visit kickbuttsday.org to see how they can help. Dear Annie: I am a certified school nurse, but I understand the frustrations of teachers. They are being mandated to teach more and more, with increasing pushes for accountability, and with raises and evaluations tied to test scores. Most are highly educated professionals with a passion for children and education. They are mandated not only to teach the subjects that are important for a student's education, but also to teach things that should be taught at home. Morality, ethics and character education are now woven into the school's curriculum. At what point do we hold parents responsible and accountable?
You've printed letters from those who want schools to teach cursive and how to balance a checkbook. Instead of pointing fingers at schools, I challenge them to take responsibility by teaching these skills at home. There are plenty of websites and online workbooks and tools for teaching various subjects at home. -- Certified School Nurse
Dear Nurse: There are many subjects that used to be covered in school, but are no longer part of the curriculum. A lot of folks are upset by this, but times change and kids need different skills today. Some subjects are going to be dropped, and this is where parents and grandparents can fill the void. You want the kids to learn cursive or to make correct change? Here is your opportunity to teach them.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailboxcreators.com, or write to Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies.
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