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Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Honors Youth Leaders in the Fight Against Tobacco

May 02, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids today announced the winners of the 2013 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards, which recognize outstanding young leaders in the fight to reduce tobacco use. The youth advocates receive educational scholarships and grants to continue their tobacco prevention work. They also serve as ambassadors for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

These young leaders were recognized last night at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ 17th annual awards gala in Washington, D.C. The 2013 Youth Advocates of the Year are:

Tyler Long, 18, of Fletcher, NC – National Youth Advocate of the YearA senior at Asheville High School and the grandson of a tobacco farmer, Tyler heard mixed messages about tobacco use while growing up. To help his peers understand its dangers, he started a Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) club at his middle school. Today he is president of his high school’s chapter.

Tyler is a youth leader in North Carolina’s statewide tobacco prevention program, Tobacco Reality Unfiltered (TRU), and he has worked to defend the program from budget cuts. He regularly conducts advocacy trainings and twice a year runs the TRU fair where he educates middle school students about tobacco use. He also played a leading role in ending tobacco sponsorship of Bele Chere, a major music and arts festival in Asheville.

Brittani Jones, 18, of Dorchester, MA – East Region winner
Brittani is a senior at Boston Trinity Academy. She first became involved in the fight against tobacco because her grandmother smoked and struggled to quit. After joining Breath of Life Dorchester (BOLD Teens), a peer leadership group, Brittani was chosen to serve on the statewide leadership team of The 84, a youth-led movement fighting for a tobacco-free generation in Massachusetts. The name refers to the fact that 84 percent of high school students in Massachusetts choose to be tobacco-free.

Brittani was a key planner of The 84’s Kick Butts Day event this year; she and her peers marched to the State House and urged state legislators to support a proposed $1 cigarette tax increase. She also led a statewide training with 200 youth participants.

Darrien Skinner, 18, of Ingleside, TX – West Region winner
Darrien is a senior at Ingleside High School and became involved in the fight against tobacco as a freshman through Students against Destructive Decisions (SADD). He works as an advocate with the Texas Teen Ambassadors (TTA) program and has presented at the state’s regional tobacco summits and statewide conferences. He has also met with his state legislators to advocate for a statewide smoke-free air law in Texas.

Last summer, he represented Texas at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Kansas City, where he helped plan and implement an activism event in support of Missouri’s ballot initiative to raise the tobacco tax. He has organized multiple Kick Butts Day events and trains his peers on how to meet with legislators and advocate for causes they believe in.

Magi Linscott, 16, of Pace, FL – South Region winner
Magi is a junior at Pace High School. After tobacco use caused her grandmother’s death, Magi joined SWAT (Students Working against Tobacco) during her freshman year and is now an officer on the organization’s statewide Youth Advocacy Board.

Magi has worked to get local governments in her county to pass resolutions opposing the sale of candy-flavored tobacco, convincing all but one city to adopt such resolutions. She has met with state legislators to speak about her advocacy work and involvement in SWAT and has led five county trainings, reaching over 200 youth. She has also designed several thought-provoking activities for her peers, including one called “The Deadly Package” that focuses on how the design, colors and shape of tobacco products target specific demographics.

Joanna Hejl, 15, of Lincoln, NE – Central Region winner
Joanna is a freshman at Lincoln High School, where she started a club to inform her peers about the tobacco industry’s deceptions. She helps lead regional trainings across the state on community activism and tobacco-free parks.

Joanna is also a board member of the statewide movement, No Limits Nebraska. In this role, she helped lead the lobby day training for their large Kick Butts Day event, during which kids from across the state met with legislators to talk about the importance of fighting tobacco use. She is also involved in planning the No Limits Summer Summit, a training program for teen activists. Joanna is also working to increase Nebraska’s tobacco tax and ensure that all cigars are regulated by the FDA.

Show-Me PALS of Missouri – Group winner
Show-Me PALS (People Advocating Living Smoke-free) engages youth activists across Missouri. Members of the Youth Advisory Board have worked in their communities and schools to protect others from secondhand smoke, provide cessation services to English-as-a-Second-Language residents, build support for tobacco-free school grounds and other community policies to reduce tobacco use, and plan creative activities to promote a tobacco-free lifestyle.

To empower Missouri youth to stand up to tobacco, the members of the Youth Advisory Board have presented at national and statewide conferences, led Missouri youth in supporting a 2012 ballot initiative to increase the state tobacco tax and planned and implemented an advocacy day at the state Capitol.

The Youth Advisory Board members are: Becky Bade, 15, of New Bloomfield; Alyssa Bradley, 15, of New Bloomfield; Daniel Giuffra, 17, of Chesterfield; and Madison Kellums, 16, of Arbyrd.

Alexander Higginbotham, 16, of Odessa, MO – Joining Forces Award for Youth Advocacy
Alex is a junior at Odessa High School, and his father is a Navy commander. Alex is involved with Smokebusters/Show-Me PALS (People Advocating Living Smoke-free) in Missouri and serves as the group’s vice president. He also recruited 28 youth and founded Odessa’s first chapter of Students with a Goal (SWAG).

Alex has mobilized his peers and engaged his city council in support of smoke-free air policies. This fall, he recorded two radio public service announcements and created a Halloween-themed campaign in support of Missouri’s ballot initiative to raise the tobacco tax. As Vice President of Show-Me PALS, Alex led the youth training portion and spoke at the Tobacco-Free Missouri Capitol Day rally.

“These young leaders from across the nation are making great strides in the fight against tobacco and their voices are being heard,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “They bring energy, passion and creativity to our movement and inspire all of us to win the fight against the number one cause of preventable death.”

In addition to these youth, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids honored two pioneering leaders in the fight against tobacco:

  • Former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Michael Pertschuk, a longtime advocate for consumer protection and tobacco control, received the Champion Award for his five decades of leadership in the fight against tobacco. As a staff member in the U.S. Senate in the 1960s and 1970s, Pertschuk was the strategist behind major consumer protection and tobacco control legislation. An aggressive FTC Chair, he fought advertising targeted at children. Since co-founding the Advocacy Institute in 1984, he has been a pioneer in fostering citizen advocacy and helped build the U.S. and global tobacco control movements.
  • Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, a head and neck cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India, received the Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence, named after the late founder of Tobacco-Free Kids’ international program. Dr. Chaturvedi created and is leading a campaign called Voice of Tobacco Victims that has mobilized tobacco victims, their families and their doctors to advocate for strong laws to reduce tobacco use. Their efforts have contributed to the adoption of bans on gutka – a leading form of smokeless tobacco – in 28 out of 35 of India’s states and territories and tobacco tax increases in 20 Indian states. These actions represent historic progress in a country with more than 300 million tobacco users, including more than 200 million users of smokeless tobacco resulting in an epidemic of oral cancer.