| 28 Mar 2016 | 06:02


Students at Smith School on West 86th Street need to walk just a few hundred feet to get a cup of coffee at no fewer than four different outlets. Middle Eastern delicacies, pizza, bagels, crepes and barbecue are also available within a couple block radius.

So are cigarettes. Plenty of them.

Students at Smith recently counted about 30 outlets selling tobacco products within four blocks of the school and on nearly every corner.

On March 16, National Kick Butts Day, Smith's roughly 50 students teamed up with NYC Smoke-Free, an education and advocacy organization, to raise awareness of tobacco proliferation within the city's neighborhoods. Other schools, including Eleanor Roosevelt High School on the Upper East Side and Stuyvesant High School, downtown, also participated.

Smith, though, held one of the larger events.

The week before Kick Butts Day, representatives from NYC Smoke-Free visited Smith, and gave a presentation on the negative effects of tobacco and detailed the industry's marketing campaigns. They also coordinated with students to document the neighborhood's retail outlets selling cigarettes.

Students then created posters illustrating what they learned, but also to set down messages combating tobacco advertisement and promoting the importance of being smoke-free.

“Right now there are about 4,000 high school students that currently smoke in Manhattan. So there is a lot of work to be done,” said Lisa Spitzer, NYC Smoke-Free's community engagement coordinator. “We've made a lot of progress with our smoke-free laws in New York City, but the fact remains that smoking among youth is still an issue, and the proliferation of tobacco retail outlets throughout New York City is a huge problem. New York City is like a tobacco swamp.”

According NYC Smoke-Free, more than 10,000 city teenagers become daily smokers each year. Nearly three times that many New Yorkers — 28,200 — die annually from tobacco use.

This year, Smith School's teachers implemented college, multicultural and healthy habits weeks to build culture, raise awareness and promote students to be “change-makers” and make thoughtful decisions. Consideration of tobacco's harmful effects fit right into the curriculum.

Marissa Allen, the school guidance counselor, said NYC Smoke-Free campaign was particularly good timing. The idea fit right into the curriculum that students and teachers were covering within their advisory groups.

“We're dealing with real teen topics that they're interested in and want to talk about, real life issues besides the curriculum their learning in history, English or math. They get to talk about stress management, peer pressure, stereotypes, drugs and alcohol, and stuff that they face on a daily basis,” Allen said.

On National Kick Butts Day last Wednesday, Ayo Alli, NYC Smoke-Free's youth engagement coordinator, encouraged students to think about why combating tobacco matters. He told students that 90 percent of smokers started before they reached 18. He commended students for working hard to combat tobacco use.

“The youth here feel like we don't need any more tobacco retail outlets, they don't need more tobacco stores and tobacco products in their community. They need healthier options that support them in making the right decisions,” Spitzer said. “They want to see a vision for their future generations to be tobacco-free and I think this could only spur the start of conversations with them within their peers, as well as their families.”

Rachel Mitchell, an 11th-grader whose poster was among those judged most effective, said the event and the instruction and discussion that led up to National Kick Butts Day, was instructive and sobering. “I'm definitely more aware of the effects of smoking,” Mitchell said. “I'm going to try my best to influence my peers not to smoke.”