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On May 24, 2018, we celebrated another year of extraordinary progress in the fight against tobacco both in the United States and around the world – progress that brings us closer than ever to creating the first tobacco-free generation.

In the U.S., the youth smoking rate has fallen to a record-low 8 percent, a once unimaginable level. Globally, cigarette sales have now declined for four years in a row after rising for decades, and smoking rates are falling from India to Russia to Ukraine.

We were thrilled to honor visionary leaders and advocates who are helping bring about this life-saving change.

Meet Our Awardees


Robert D. Manfred, Jr., the Commissioner of Baseball

This year, we presented our highest honor, the Champion Award, to Robert D. Manfred, Jr., the Commissioner of Baseball, in recognition of the league’s efforts under his leadership to eliminate the use of all tobacco products in Major League Baseball. As a result of Commissioner Manfred’s commitment to tobacco-free baseball, nearly half of Major League stadiums are now completely tobacco-free, efforts continue to make the remaining stadiums tobacco-free and new players are prohibited from using smokeless tobacco. With baseball players serving as role models to so many youth, these achievements are having a profound and positive impact on the health of our nation’s children.

Manfred became the 10th Commissioner in the history of MLB on January 25, 2015, after serving in various capacities with MLB for more than two decades. His previous positions at MLB include Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President for Economics & League Affairs and Executive Vice President for Labor Relations & Human Resources.

Manfred is a 1980 graduate of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and a 1983 magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. Read more on the MLB website.


Sara Kay
Honolulu, Hawaii

Sara is a fierce advocate for policies to reduce tobacco use. The issue is personal for her – she lost her grandmother, a nonsmoker, to lung disease likely caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Due in part to Sara’s advocacy efforts, the City smoking in cars with kids (the measure applies to the entire island of Oahu). Sara has also pushed for a similar statewide law, contacting lawmakers and testifying before the Legislature in support of the proposal.

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Michelle Li
Ballwin, Missouri

As a child, Michelle learned about the harmful consequences of smoking while visiting relatives in Hunan, China. She breathed air thick with tobacco smoke, heard her uncle beg her father to bring him American cigarettes, and watched her beloved grandfather develop lung cancer and later die from the disease.

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Brooklyn Larimore
Bellevue, Nebraska

Brooklyn is an accomplished tobacco control advocate who serves as co-chair of No Limits Nebraska (the state’s youth-led movement against tobacco), the only youth Executive Board member of the Metro Omaha Anti-Tobacco Coalition, an advocate with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and a two-time National Youth Ambassador with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. She took on the issue when she saw the toll tobacco was taking on friends and family.

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Eunice Namkoong
Yorktown, Virginia

Eunice got involved with tobacco prevention when she saw classmates using e-cigarettes in school bathrooms and wondered if her peers knew the risks of these products. A scientist at heart, Eunice surveyed her fellow students about their tobacco knowledge – and proved her hypothesis.

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Gabrielle Kennedy
Puckett, Mississippi

Growing up, Gabby saw family members using tobacco and became especially committed to fighting tobacco use when her grandfather died of lung cancer. In high school, she joined Generation FREE, Mississippi’s youth-led tobacco prevention program, with the goal of educating her peers about the dangers of tobacco use.

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Tijay Daniels, Harmony Ellerbe, Sydney Grimes, Jada Rasulallah, Jasmine Rasulallah, Marquita Young
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

#RealTalkTobacco has one huge goal: to make Philadelphia the first city with a youth smoking rate of zero percent. The group, which is part of the Health Promotion Council’s Advocacy Institute, uses community pop-up events, public service announcements, spoken word poetry and murals to creatively educate their peers about Big Tobacco and advocate for effective policies.

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Ramona Brad
Project Director, 2035 Tobacco-Free Romania Initiative

Ramona Brad is Project Director of the 2035 Tobacco-Free Romania Initiative, a national campaign with the goal of eliminating the death and disease caused by tobacco use in Romania. Ms. Brad has been the driving force in building a coalition of more than 350 organizations that advocates for proven policies to reduce tobacco use.

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