FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — March 19, 2015 — PROVIDENCE, RI. —The Rhode Island Department of Health, Tobacco Free Rhode Island, dozens of youth-based organizations and more than 200 teens gathered in downtown Providence yesterday afternoon for the second annual Rhode Island Zombie Walk. The event allows local teens to affirm their commitment to reduce tobacco use and secondhand smoke in Rhode Island – zombie style!
Dressed as the zombies of dead smokers, the teens marched from Johnson and Wales University's Schneider Auditorium to the Providence Place Mall, making stops along the way to offer tobacco-users information on how to quit, and to thank Rhode Island organizations and local businesses for passing tobacco-free policies. 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 is an exciting and creative way teens can show their support for a tobacco-free lifestyle," said Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Michael Fine, MD. " Rhode Island has the second-lowest youth smoking rate in the country. It is critical that we continue to inform teens about the dangers of smoking. Among young people, the short-term health consequences are serious and include respiratory and non-respiratory effects, addiction to nicotine, and the associated risk of other drug use."
Spoken Word Artist Jay Chattelle, volunteered his time to emcee the event. He started the youth off with an inspiring speech and performance that set the tone for the afternoon. Professional make-up artist Joseph Arsenault and volunteers from the Emergency Management Homeland Security Club provided make-up application for the group. Zombies were escorted along this year's route by officers from the Providence Police Department as well as Rhode Island's own Tony "The Dancing Cop" Lepore.
"It's important to educate as many people as possible so they know exactly what's going in their body when they smoke," said Yasin Price, a student from the MET school and Zombie Walk participant.
"This year, I'm more than pleased to do the Zombie Walk," said Hannah Gomez, a student at East Providence High School. "I participated last year and it was such a blast and I made the best memories with my friends. Instead of just passing out flyers with info, I loved how we got to wear the Zombie make-up. It wasn't the typical tobacco free event and that's what made it so unique. It's important to me because so many people don't realize the impact that tobacco has on our bodies, even the e-cigs that are supposedly safe."
Tobacco Free Rhode Island also provided a group of youth with tobacco facts to give to their elected officials before beginning the walk.
"Two out of every three smokers die from their smoking. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Rhode Island and the nation, killing over 1600 Rhode Islanders every year," said Karina Holyoak Wood, Director of Tobacco Free Rhode Island. "Tobacco addiction takes hold in the teenage years. Nearly 90 percent of all adult smokers started smoking before age 19. Helping teens stay away from tobacco is the best way to prevent a lifetime of tobacco addiction, disease and death."
The event concluded with an after party at Dave and Busters, where the zombies were treated to games 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 CVS Health, RIPTA, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Tobacco Free Rhode Island, and the United Way of Rhode Island, Johnson and Wales University, and the Office of Rural Health.