Thank you to our sponsors, supporters, honorees and attendees who made the 2017 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards Gala a wonderful celebration of our progress in the fight against tobacco.

May 10, 2017 | The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C.

Champion Award Winner

Tom Steyer

Business Leader and Philanthropist
Co-Chair, Yes on 56 – Save Lives California

Tom Steyer is a business leader and philanthropist who believes we have a moral responsibility to give back and help ensure that every family shares the benefits of economic opportunity, education and a healthy climate.

In 2016, Tom served as co-chair of the Yes on 56 – Save Lives California ballot initiative campaign. Approved by 64.4 percent of California voters, Proposition 56 raised the state's cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with equivalent increases on other tobacco products. The revenue generated will be used to improve health care programs, expand tobacco prevention and cessation efforts, and fund research on cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.

Tom's personal advocacy played a key role in the success of this historic measure to reduce tobacco use and save lives, which was overwhelmingly approved despite vigorous opposition from tobacco companies that spent over $71 million against it.

Tom founded a successful California business, which he left to work full-time on non-profit and advocacy efforts. He now serves as President of NextGen Climate, an organization he founded in 2013 to prevent climate disaster and promote prosperity for all Americans.



Youth Advocates of the Year

National Youth Advocate of the Year
Carlos Vela, 18
Ingleside, Texas

Group Youth Advocates of the Year
Noble SWAT
Emma Adams, 14; Faith Lorenz, 15; Bryce Riddle, 16; Brody Smith, 14
Noble, Oklahoma

East Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Hannah Martuscello, 16
Dover, New Hampshire

Central Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Adileen Sii, 18
Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin

South Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Nicolas Suarez, 17
Port St. Lucie, Florida

West Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Tyra Nicolay, 17
Shiprock, New Mexico



Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence

Dr. Vishal Rao

Chief of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology
Healthcare Global Enterprise Cancer Hospital
Member of High Level Committee on Tobacco Control–Government of Karnataka
Bengaluru, India

In his multiple roles as a surgical oncologist, a high level advisor to the Karnataka State Government, a leader of the Voices of Tobacco Victims movement and a tireless advocate, Dr. Vishal Rao is uniquely positioned to speak firsthand about the devastating harms of tobacco use he sees in his patients and to influence policies for reducing tobacco use.

Dr. Rao has leveraged his position and passion for tobacco control to unite government, nonprofit, media and the private sector to push for better health policies in India. Through these collaborations, Dr. Rao has advocated for tougher enforcement of India's Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act of 2003 and mobilized states and the private sector to commit more funding to tobacco control initiatives. The 2003 law bans smoking in many indoor public places, restricts tobacco advertising and marketing, and mandates large pictorial health warnings for tobacco packs.

Dr. Rao's efforts have led to significant policy changes in India, including a ban on chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes in Karnataka, a state of almost 65 million people. Dr. Rao has also been influential in defending India's requirement for pictorial health warnings covering 85 percent of tobacco packs — among the largest in the world. These are major accomplishments in a country that has 275 million tobacco users — the second most after China — and has been labeled the "oral cancer capital of the world" due to high rates of smokeless tobacco use.

Dr. Rao is especially sensitive to the burden of tobacco use on India's poorest citizens. Recently, Dr. Rao designed an affordable voice prosthesis for throat cancer patients who undergo laryngectomy to help them speak again.

Those who have worked with Dr. Rao describe his style of advocacy as "role model and mentor" to individuals in a position to make policy decisions in India. His colleagues and collaborators say that by instilling advocates with a sense of ownership and responsibility for their work, and making them aware of the tools they have to make an impact, he has been able to mobilize advocates, influence policy and save lives.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is honored to recognize Dr. Vishal Rao with the 2017 Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence. It is our privilege to work with him as a colleague to end the tobacco epidemic, the single greatest cause of preventable death in the world.













Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health | Jessica Nagle



For more information, contact Louella Haymon at 202-481-9341 or