VIRGINIA, Minn., March 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Approximately 100 Iron Range youth and their families gathered together at dusk on March 20 to send into the air 160, 3-foot tall biodegradable sky lanterns over Silver Lake. The lanterns are representative of the proposed significant cigarette tax increase (H.F. 91), a trending budget solution topic in the 2013 state legislative session. The event was held in conjunction with Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130321/CG81452) "Increasing the price of tobacco is the best tool we have to prevent kids from becoming adult smokers," said Pat McKone, Director of the Tobacco Control Program and Advocacy for American Lung Association in Minnesota. "Raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.50 will prevent more than 47,700 Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction. The American Lung Association in Minnesota is proud to partner with Iron Range Youth in Action on such a creative, eye-catching activity to raise awareness of how tobacco harms our communities, particularly our youngest citizens." In addition to ceremoniously sending off the luminaries, the group celebrated with s'mores on the beach and music provided by Iron Range Youth in Action. City of Virginia Council Member from Nevada Littlewolf and City of Eveleth Council Member Beth Peterson were among the guests. Tobacco remains a huge problem in Minnesota:
16 percent of Minnesotans still smoke
77,000 kids will use tobacco this year
5,100 lives are lost each year to tobacco-related illnesses – more than alcohol, homicides, car accidents, AIDS, illegal drugs and suicide combined
"The Raise it for Health coalition and others from the tobacco prevention community were excited to see such a strong turn-out for this event, as well as Minnesotans' enthusiasm for increasing the tobacco tax," said Molly Moilanen, a member of the Raise it for Health coalition. "A majority of Minnesotans agree that legislators can and should do more to curb tobacco use, especially among kids. With Governor Mark Dayton's leadership on this issue, we hope state lawmakers will listen to the public and pass a significant tobacco tax increase this year." Kick Butts Day is a program from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The program encourages youth to stay tobacco-free and advocates for strong action to protect kids from tobacco's harms.