2001 Youth Advocates of the Year… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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2001 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards Announced

Young Tobacco Prevention Leaders Recognized at Gala Event in Washington, D.C.
May 17, 2001

Washington, DC — The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today announced the winners of the 2001 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards, an annual competition that honors young people who have made outstanding contributions to tobacco prevention.

More than 400 public health, civic and business leaders will join members of Congress and the Administration at the Campaign's sixth annual gala tonight in Washington, D.C., to recognize these young leaders. The winners will receive educational scholarships and grants to continue their prevention efforts and serve as ambassadors for the Campaign. Actor and Director Jeremy London, ('Party of Five') will present the awards and NBC NEWS4 Anchor Doreen Gentzler will serve as Master of Ceremonies. The winners:

National: Shannon Brewer, age 17, grade 11, Spokane, Washington

East Region: Cynthia Loesch, age 15, grade 10, Boston, Massachusetts

South Region: Terra Gearhart, age 16, grade 10, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Central Region: Andrew Goedeken, age 18, grade 11, Ames, Iowa

West Region: Marin Poole, age 17, grade 11, Logan, Utah

Group: Stdent Coalition Against Tobacco (SCAT), grades 9-12, Ocean City, New Jersey

'These young leaders from across the nation 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, 3,000 kids in the United States become regular 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 Winner Shannon Brewer has advocated for strong tobacco control at the state, local and federal levels. 'Upon each meeting with Shannon, I was impressed with her professionalism, intelligence and knowledge of the issues,' stated U. S. representative George R. Nethercutt (R-WA), who nominated Shannon for this award and will present it to her at the gala.

The Campaign will honor Pam Laffin with its Champion Award, which recognizes a national leader in tobacco control. Ms. Laffin, a single mother of two, dedicated herself to warning others of the dangers of tobacco use before succumbing to emphysema at age 31. In a wheelchair, Ms. Laffin visited school and youth groups across Massachusetts and several other states, and appeared in a series of anti-smoking ads for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that chronicled her illness. Her brother, Andy Laffin, will accept the award on her behalf.

Gregory N. Connolly, Director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program said, 'Pam turned her ordeal into a stark lesson for young people who might choose to smoke. She touched the lives of tens of thousands of school children. Her bravery and spirit will not be forgotten.'

The 2001 Youth Advocates of the Year are:

National: Shannon Brewer, 17, of Spokane, Washington, is a 11th grader at Shadle Park High School. By lobbying her state legislators, Shannon helped to get $15 million in funding for Washington's Tobacco Prevention and Control Council, a statewide prevention program which Shannon also helped to develop. As a member of STAT (Spokane Teens Against Tobacco), Shannon organized 64 of her peers to give anti-tobacco presentations at local middle schools for the Great American Smokeout. Through her work with Tobacco-Free Washington, she has testified before health boards in support of a local outdoor advertisement ban and smoke free-fair grounds and parks. Shannon was the Campaign's 2000 West Region Youth Advocate of the Year.

East Region: Cynthia Loesch, 15, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a 10th grader at Boston Latin Academy. Cynthia's interest in tobacco prevention arose from her grandparents' deaths from tobacco-related illness. She joined and now leads her local Teens Against Tobacco Use (T.A.T.) group. T.A.T. convinced the Boston Globe to stop taking tobacco advertisements and works to get local retailers to place tobacco products behind the counter to reduce youth access to tobacco. Cynthia also works with BAYTAG (Boston Area Youth Tobacco Action Group) to encourage effective tobacco use reduction policies in the city.

South Region: Terra Gearhart, 16, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a home-schooled 10th grader. Terra joined the Grant County Youth Health Advisors in 1998, giving classroom presentations and radio interviews and writing newspaper articles about tobacco. She later joined the Grant County Tobacco-Free Coalition and became its chairperson. She helped craft and promote a clean indoor air ordinance in Silver City, New Mexico, which passed in January 2001. Terra is also part of the New Mexico statewide teen anti-tobacco coalition, Youth Empower Advocacy Heroes (YEAH!). With this group, she helped organize the Great American Smokeout 2000 with her local American Cancer Society chapter. The New Mexico Department of Health named Terra its 2000 youth advocate of the year.

Central Region: Andrew Goedeken, 18, of Ames, Iowa, is an 11th grader at Ames High School. Andrew turned his anger into action after he lost his grandmother and aunt to tobacco-related illness. He joined the Ames Tobacco Task Force, which he now co-chairs. Andrew also serves on the Mayor's Youth Committee and on the Ames High School Tobacco Task Force. In March, Andrew's efforts helped Ames to become the first city in Iowa to pass a smoke-free dining ordinance. He also helped create and pass a citywide compliance checks ordinance, which has reduced the number of retailers who sell tobacco products to minors. Andrew also works as a part of the Just Eliminate Lies (JEL) statewide tobacco control movement and helped organize a five-city tour which recruited over 1,000 young people. Andrew is one of three youth voting members on the Iowa Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Commission, which oversees $9.3 million in appropriated funds for tobacco prevention.

West Region: Marin Poole, 17, of Logan, Utah, is an 11th grader at Logan High School. Marin has been a tobacco control advocate for nearly five years. She has recorded radio ads about teen tobacco use and mounted a successful campaign to take tobacco ads out of magazines in her high school. Serving on the Governor's Youth Council at the state level, Marin also created a local chapter of the council at her school. She has successfully lobbied the state legislature for a 25-cent per pack increase in the state's cigarette tax. In addition, she has lobbied the state legislature to spend tobacco settlement money on tobacco prevention and education. Marin is part of the national truth campaign and toured the West Coast as a spokesperson for the truth tour in the summer of 2000.

Group: Student Coalition Against Tobacco (SCAT), of Ocean City, New Jersey, includes 35 high school students from Ocean City High School. SCAT has educated hundreds of local residents about the dangers of tobacco use. To raise awareness of and support for a smoke-free dining ordinance, SCAT organized a town meeting that drew over 200 people. Upon receiving strong support from residents, SCAT visited the City Council to propose a ban on cigarette vending machines and smoking in restaurants. SCAT generated attention to these two proposals by organizing a 5K race for Kick Butts Day 2000, an annual event sponsored by the Campaign. Last summer, both ordinances passed into law, although state preemption subsequently overturned the smoke-free dining ordinance. The group has joined the statewide movement R.E.B.E.L. (Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies) and helped to train 500 youth for the media launch of R.E.B.E.L.'s 'Not For Sale' advertising campaign. Just last month, SCAT organized a breakfast with state legislators and then traveled to a Baltimore Orioles game to promote Kick Butts Day 2001.