2023 Youth Advocates of the Year… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids





OUR 2023 Awards

Champion Award

The Champion Award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to reducing the death and disease from tobacco and to improving health and saving lives in the United States and around the world.

2023 Honoree: Advocates and Policymakers of Ukraine
Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi

Barrie Fiske National Youth Advocate of the Year

Our highest youth advocate award pays tribute to the extraordinary life and work of the late Barrie Fiske, a tireless tobacco control champion committed to using her strong voice to fight for change. The Barrie Fiske National Youth Advocate of the Year Award is given to one exceptional young advocate fighting to reduce youth tobacco use.

2023 Honoree: DJ Yearwood

Group Youth Advocates of the Year

The Group Youth Advocates of the Year Award recognizes a leading youth coalition working to protect their peers and community from tobacco. This group demonstrates the collective power of youth working together to drive meaningful change.

2023 Honoree: VOICE Indiana

Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence

The Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence recognizes an advocate from a low- or middle-income country who has worked to significantly reduce tobacco use through policy advocacy. It is given in honor of the late Judy Wilkenfeld, an inspiring advocate whose expertise and devotion forever changed the world of tobacco control.

2023 Honoree: Erick Antonio Ochoa
Executive Director and co-founder, Salud Justa Mx, Mexico

Youth Advocates of the Year

Outstanding youth leaders in the fight against tobacco are honored as Youth Advocates of the Year. These youth have advocated for tobacco prevention policies, taken on the tobacco industry and its deceptive marketing, and helped keep their peers tobacco-free.

2023 Honorees: Lilith Breazeale, Lauren To, J.R. Ash, Miah Chao


We are honored to present a special Champion Award this year to the courageous advocates and policymakers of Ukraine who have made tremendous progress in fighting tobacco use despite extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

As a result of their efforts, backed by a strong civil society community, Ukraine enacted a sweeping tobacco control law in 2022 that will save lives and greatly improve public health. Ukraine has remained dedicated to effective implementation of the law even after Russia’s invasion of the country. Ukraine’s remarkable progress in tobacco control at this time, when the country is fighting for its survival, is a testament to the commitment, perseverance and resolute spirit of our Ukrainian partners.


Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi served as the 52nd Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011, making history as the first woman elected Speaker, and served again as Speaker from 2019 to 2023. Under Speaker Pelosi, Congress took some of the strongest actions to reduce tobacco use in the nation’s history.

In 2009, Congress enacted into law both the landmark Tobacco Control Act, which granted FDA authority over tobacco products, and the largest-ever federal tobacco tax increase. In 2020, Speaker Pelosi led the House in voting to approve the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act – the first time a chamber of Congress voted to ban all flavored tobacco products. In 2022, Congress enacted a new law making clear the FDA’s authority to regulate products made with synthetic nicotine.

We honor Speaker Emerita Pelosi for her commitment to the health of America’s children and her courageous leadership in the fight against tobacco.


DJ Yearwood
Independence, Missouri • Age 16

Growing up surrounded by family members who smoked, DJ Yearwood always knew he didn’t like tobacco. Over time, he developed a passion for youth advocacy, always looking for ways to engage and advocate for his peers. In his local community, DJ worked with his school district to implement tobacco prevention clubs – and even founded his own nonprofit focusing on peer support and mobilization. At the state level, he recently worked with lawmakers to allocate $2.9 million toward Missouri’s tobacco prevention program, the largest investment in tobacco prevention in the state’s history. And nationally, DJ has participated in panels, held town halls and even met with FDA officials to support the agency’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. DJ embodies all the qualities of a new generation of leaders catalyzing change for a healthier and more equitable future.


Lilith Breazeale
Adair, Oklahoma • Age 17

When the kids she used to play tag with started becoming addicted to e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, Lilith Breazeale knew she had to do something. Pretty soon, she learned about Oklahoma’s preemption law, which prohibits local communities from passing tobacco prevention policies. So she collected data to show strong support for repealing the preemption law and allowing communities to protect kids and residents from tobacco. In March 2023, she brought these findings to the state Capitol, meeting with legislators and building support for empowering communities to reduce tobacco use. She continues her advocacy through awareness events and creative use of social media.


Lauren To
Las Cruces, New Mexico • Age 16

On her first day of high school, Lauren To was late because a student was smoking on her school bus. This experience became all too common, as she continued to see many of her peers smoking and using e-cigarettes. Lauren refused to accept this reality and began leading discussions with the principal to implement a comprehensive tobacco-free school policy. Encouraged by that success, she helped build support for a district-wide policy, which the school board eventually adopted. Turning her focus statewide, Lauren got involved in the successful campaigns to raise the tobacco age to 21 and require tobacco retailers to have a license. Now, she's actively engaging New Mexico legislators to build support for ending flavored tobacco sales and raising the state tobacco tax.


J.R. Ash
Huntington, West Virginia • Age 16

West Virginia has the highest rate of tobacco use in the U.S. – but J.R. Ash refuses to accept the status quo. After watching his father struggle with smoking-related throat cancer, J.R. became an advocate. He's worked with many West Virginia lawmakers, pushing to increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and opposing a law that would reverse decades of work done by local tobacco control advocates. He's also met with his school board to push for non-punitive tobacco use policies that focus on cessation and support. And he's worked with the American Heart Association on radio public service announcements about the impact of tobacco use on teens.


Miah Chao
Benicia, California • Age 17

When she got to high school, Miah Chao was outraged when she saw how the tobacco industry used candy-flavored e-cigarettes to lure her peers into addiction. In her hometown, she successfully campaigned for an ordinance that required tobacco retailer licenses and regulated how and where tobacco products could be sold; legislation to make multi-unit housing and public outdoor spaces smoke-free; and an alternative-to-suspension policy template for California school districts. Miah now serves on the California Youth Council, helping to organize fellow advocates. And recently, she was instrumental in rallying and organizing for the successful campaign to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in California.


VOICE Indiana is a youth organization focused on engaging, educating, and empowering teens to live tobacco-free. Earlier this year, group members, including Brenna Bastin, Suhita Chintalacharuvu, Nicole Liu, and Hannah Martin, organized the VOICE Youth Day at the Indiana Statehouse. Over 250 youth came together to speak with policymakers about increasing the state tobacco tax and other tobacco prevention policies. While this award honors the collective efforts of VOICE Indiana, we are delighted to highlight the efforts of Brenna, Suhita, Nicole, and Hannah – who are boldly fighting to create the first tobacco-free generation.


Erick Antonio Ochoa

For more than a decade, Erick Antonio Ochoa has been an integral part of the grassroots movement that has made Mexico a global leader in fighting tobacco use. Working with Salud Justa Mx, Tobacco-Free Kids partners CODICE, Refleacciona, and La Coalición México Salud-Hable, and a coalition of other organizations, Erick’s leadership led to passage of Mexico’s historic and comprehensive 2022 law that made all indoor public spaces smoke-free nationwide and banned all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. These reforms would not have been possible without Erick's tenacity and his commitment to collaborating with partners. Now, thanks to their efforts, millions of Mexicans are protected from deadly secondhand smoke and Big Tobacco’s deceptive marketing.






Ambassador Omar Arouna and Yolonda Richardson

Consumer Healthcare Products Association

Global Wave Digital




Hinman Straub

Ice Miller

John R. Bowman

Jonathan Wilkenfeld and Family



Reid, McNally, & Savage

The Center for Black Health & Equity

The Mellman Group

Vital Strategies

Action on Smoking & Health

Anderson & Kreiger LLP

Bernstein Shur

Beverly and Timothy May


EaglePeak Consulting

Elite Change Inc.

Espousal Strategies

FM3 Research

Gallagher Benefit Services

Kerr Russell

Kimberly and Craig Amazeen

Lake Research Partner

Olson Remcho LLP

RBC Wealth Management – The Etergino Group

Reinecke Strategic Solutions

RTI International

The Resurgam Group

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Tim Gibbs Consulting

Zuckerman Spaeder LLP



Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is the leading advocacy organization working to reduce tobacco use and its deadly consequences in the United States and around the world. Through strategic communications and policy advocacy campaigns, we promote the adoption of proven solutions that are most effective at reducing tobacco use and save the most lives. Through our youth initiatives, we foster young leaders who are striving to make the next generation tobacco-free. Our vision is a future free from the death and disease caused by tobacco.

Global Health Advocacy Incubator

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), an initiative of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, supports civil society organizations advocating for public health policies that reduce death and disease. We bring a proven advocacy approach and a global network of local partners, built on a 25-year track record of success across multiple issues in more than 60 countries. GHAI provides strategic support to advocates working to enact and implement laws that save lives on a variety of public health issues and in diverse political systems and is a leading policy advocacy voice on a range of issues.