With today's first-ever Rhode Island Zombie Walk, the Rhode Island Department of Health's Tobacco Control Program, Tobacco Free Rhode Island, Tobacco Free Providence, and local teens affirmed their commitment to finding innovative ways to reduce tobacco use. Dozens of teens from across Rhode Island gathered to motivate smokers to quit—zombie style!
Dressed as the zombies of dead smokers, the teens marched from the State House to Kennedy Plaza to offer tobacco users information on how to quit. Cancerous lesions on their faces and stomas on their necks helped the teens make a dramatic statement about the effects of tobacco-related disease.
"This event demonstrates the intersection of art and health," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Art and imagination helps kids fight off the noxious effort of tobacco companies to get them addicted."
A press conference kicked off the festivities at the State House with special guest speakers Jay Chattelle, a Pawtucket spoke word performance artist and Ken Ryan, a Pawtucket-born retired professional baseball player.
"The youth of Rhode Island need to know that they do in fact have the power to make positive change," concluded Youth Zombie Spokesperson Dan Fitzgerald, president of the Chariho Community Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group, at the end of the conference. "Kick Butts Day is the perfect day to start. Let your voice be heard!"
Tobacco Free Rhode Island provided the youth with tobacco facts to give to their elected officials before beginning the walk.
"Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in our state, killing over 1500 Rhode Islanders every year," said Karina Wood, Director of Tobacco Free Rhode Island. "Data show that 80 percent of all adult smokers start smoking before age 18, and 90 percent of all smokers start before leaving their teens. Tobacco Free Rhode Island is calling for a $1 increase in the state excise tax on cigarettes, because pricing youth out of smoking is the single most effective proven measure to lower the youth smoking rate. We also strongly support Representative Melo's bill to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and require e-cigarette sellers to obtain a tobacco sales license."
Providence Police and special guest Tony "The Dancing Cop" escorted the kids from the State House to Kennedy plaza to ensure everyone remained safe during the walk. The event concluded with an after party at the Providence Skating Center, where the zombies were treated to skating and refreshments.
The Rhode Island Zombie Walk was part of The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' "Kick Butts Day", a national annual observance that gives youth the opportunity to take a stand against tobacco in creative ways. The Walk was sponsored by RIPTA, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Tobacco Free Providence, and Walgreens.