May. 5 2004
Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids today announced the winners of the 2004 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards, an annual competition that honors young people who have made outstanding contributions to tobacco prevention.
More than 400 government, public health, civic and business leaders will attend the Campaign’s ninth annual gala tonight in Washington, D.C., to recognize these young leaders. The winners will receive educational scholarships and grants to continue their tobacco prevention efforts and serve as ambassadors for the Campaign. The Campaign will also present Washington State Attorney General Christine Gregoire with its Champion Award, which recognizes national leadership in tobacco control.
The 2004 Youth Advocates of the Year are:
National: Ashley Sobrinski, 11th grade, Seaville, NJ
International Grant Winner: Jessica Harvey, 12th grade, Verbank, NY
East Region: Khoa Ma, 11th grade, Cincinnati, OH
South Region: Sydney Steely, 9th grade, Murfreesboro, AR
Central Region: Koorosh Zahrai, 11th grade, Edmond, OK
West Region: BreAnna Dupuis, 11th grade, Vancouver, WA
Group: Asian American Youth Against Tobacco (AAYAT), Ohio
“These young leaders are making great strides against youth tobacco addiction and their voices are being heard,” said Matthew L. Myers, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president. “Every day, 2,000 kids in the United States become daily smokers and roughly one-third of them will die prematurely from tobacco-caused disease. Almost 90 percent of adult smokers began at or before the age of 18. Youth are powerful allies in the fight to turn these trends around.”
National: Ashley Sobrinski, 16, of Seaville, New Jersey, and a junior at Ocean City High School, is vice president of the Ocean City Student Coalition Against Tobacco and chairs its FDA Promotion Committee, which educates community members about the importance of Congress granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products. Ashley also founded S.E.A. (Smoking Education and Awareness), a program she designed to educate elementary school students about the dangers of tobacco use.
In 2003, Ashley led a successful campaign to make Ocean City’s historic boardwalk smoke-free. She worked with the public health community and the local fire and police departments to educate the citizens of Ocean City about the dangers of secondhand smoke as well as the millions of dollars in property damage from boardwalk fires caused by discarded lit cigarettes. Over the past year Ashley has worked to uphold this ordinance.
Ashley has helped pass resolutions in cities and counties across New Jersey in support of repealing a state law that preempts local governments from enacting smoke-free workplace policies. She is a board member of the Healthy Communities Coalition and chairs the Youth Leadership Council, which focuses on implementing and enforcing smoke-free school policies. She has also been successful in helping the Cape May County Zoo go smoke-free and is currently advocating for all parks in Cape May County to go smoke-free. Ashley also testified before the State Senate in support of smoke-free workplace legislation and collected signatures on a petition for smoke-free workplaces that she presented to the Legislature.
International Grant Winner: Jessica Harvey, 18, of Verbank, New York, is a senior at Verbank High School. She is a founding member of Reality Check, New York’s statewide anti-tobacco youth movement. Jessica recently participated in a delegation of U.S. tobacco control advocates to West Africa, where she and others announced the successful conclusion of a campaign to hold Warner Bros accountable for licensing films to British American Tobacco for a cigarette brand promotion in Nigeria. While traveling in Senegal and Nigeria, Jessica also documented tobacco advertising, participated in youth marches in support of ratifying the new international tobacco treaty (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) and spoke at press conferences. Jessica plans to spend this summer on a similar delegation to Thailand and Malaysia.
East Region: Khoa Ma, 18, of Cincinnati, Ohio, is a junior at Princeton High School and is the founding member and president of the Cincinnati chapter of Asian American Youth Against Tobacco (AAYAT). He is a member of stand, Ohio’s statewide youth anti-tobacco coalition, and sits on stand’s youth advisory panel. He has served as a spokesperson for both organizations. Through his role in AAYAT, Khoa has worked closely with the Vietnamese community in Cincinnati. He has encouraged the Vietnamese Association to require that all events they sponsor be smoke-free.
Khoa is playing an active role in a new campaign to make Cincinnati workplaces 100 percent smoke-free. He is recruiting youth advocates from both AAYAT and stand to help build support for this effort. He also plans to help translate and produce educational materials in Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese to make them more accessible to members of the Asian community.
South Region: Sydney Steely, 14, of Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is a freshman at Murfreesboro High School. She has worked with 4-H and the Family, Career & Community Leaders of America and is the county president of her 4-H chapter and the district vice president for FCCLA. Sydney organized other 4-H members to survey smoking policies of the restaurants in her county. Youth and adult tobacco control advocates joined in presenting smoke-free restaurants with certificates of appreciation and placed ads in the local paper to congratulate them on their decision to go smoke-free. She hopes to continue working with the local tobacco control coalition to build strong relationships with the business community and encourage more restaurants to become smoke-free.
Central Region: Koorosh Zahrai, 17, of Edmond, Oklahoma, is a junior at Edmond High School. He is state chairman of OK SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) and is also a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Tobacco Use Prevention. In this position, Koorosh worked to help pass Oklahoma’s smoke-free workplace law and is currently helping to build support for a tobacco tax increase.
Koorosh has done extensive research on secondhand smoke, including testing the air in Oklahoma City area restaurants for levels of toxins. He was awarded a $1,000 grant to continue this research, and his study was cited in testimony before the Oklahoma Legislature in support of the smoke-free air law that passed in 2003.
West Region: BreAnna Dupuis, 16, of Vancouver, Washington, is a junior at Heritage High School. She is the president of BREATHE, her local youth anti-tobacco coalition, and serves as a trainer for Washington’s media literacy program, which helps youth reject manipulative tobacco marketing.
BreAnna has presented before both the Ridgefield and Battle Ground City Councils in an effort to designate all public parks smoke-free. Ridgefield subsequently passed a smoke-free policy for all parks, and BreAnna continues to advocate for Battle Ground to do the same. BreAnna continues to work with the Washington State Breathe Alliance to build support for a statewide smoke-free law.
Group: Asian American Youth Against Tobacco (AAYAT) in Ohio, the only statewide Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) tobacco prevention program in the state, has implemented leadership and advocacy programs in Akron, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton.
AAYAT’s Columbus chapter hosted “Have a Bite, Not a Lite” day and convinced numerous Asian restaurants to go smoke-free for the day to raise awareness about secondhand smoke. They also distributed fortune cookies with tobacco facts in them to restaurant patrons. The Cleveland and Akron chapters organized “Look at Me, Tobacco-Free” fashion shows that delivered anti-tobacco messages and featured tobacco education games with prizes.
AAYAT youth advocates are currently working on smoke-free workplace campaigns throughout Ohio. For the past year members have partnered with Smoke-free Dayton and Smoke-free Cleveland coalitions, and efforts on the Smoke-free Cincinnati and Columbus campaigns have recently started.
The Champion Award Winner: Christine Gregoire is Washington's 16th State Attorney General and the first woman elected to the position in state history. Gregoire has been a tireless leader in the fight to reduce tobacco use since 1996 when she sued the tobacco industry on behalf of the State of Washington. She was the lead negotiator for the states on public health issues in their 1997 negotiations with Big Tobacco, helped craft the legislation introduced by Senator John McCain in 1998 and again led negotiations for the states that resulted in the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the tobacco industry. The MSA required the tobacco companies to pay billions of dollars to the states, imposed restrictions on the marketing of tobacco products and led to creation of the American Legacy Foundation, which has implemented successful, nationwide anti-smoking education and cessation programs. Gregoire then served as the first chair of the Board of Directors for the Legacy Foundation and has fought to ensure that Washington uses its settlement money to protect children from tobacco.
Because of her work and the work of others, Washington is one of the few states spending a significant portion of its tobacco settlement money on tobacco prevention and public health. As a result, Washington has reduced high school smoking by 36 percent since 1999, preventing some 53,000 kids from becoming smokers.