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Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Announces 2003 Youth Advocates Of The Year

Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore and Dr. Steven Schroeder, Former President and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Also Honored as Champions
May 15, 2003

Washington, D.C. — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids today announced the winners of the 2003 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 eighth 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. Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore and Dr. Steven A. Schroeder, former President and CEO of The Robert Wood John Foundation and Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), will also be honored by receiving the Campaign's Champion Award, which recognizes national leaders in tobacco control.

The 2003 Youth Advocates of the Year are:

  • National: Walter Kerr, 11th Grade, East Haddam, CT
  • International Grant Winner: Meghan Pasricha, 11th Grade, Hockessin, DE
  • East Region: Ashley Sobrinski, 10th Grade, Seaville, NJ
  • South Region: Ritney Castine, 11th Grade, Napoleonville, LA
  • Central Region: Kelsey Hills-Evans, 11th Grade, Boulder, CO
  • West Region: Juanita Recinos, 11th Grade, San Francisco, CA
  • Group: XPOZ, Las Vegas, NV

'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: Walter Kerr, 17, of East Haddam, Connecticut, is an 11th grader at Nathan Hale-Ray High School. Among other accomplishments, Walter has been instrumental in convincing the Connecticut Legislature to pass a statewide smoke-free workplace law earlier this month. He also was part of successful efforts to pass a 61-cent cigarette tax increase, Connecticut's first such increase in 12 years, and to make state college dormitories smoke-free.

Walter is a founding member of STATIC, Students Teaching Against Tobacco in Connecticut, and serves as vice-chair of legislation, leading all youth initiatives relating to policy work and developing STATIC's goals and the organization's strategies for each legislative session.

Walter works as a project assistant with the MATCH (Mobilize Against Tobacco for Children's Health) coalition, which works to protect Connecticut's children from tobacco, and was recognized as the coalition's Advocate of the Year for 2002. Walter often testifies before the Connecticut Legislature and speaks at rallies and youth summits. He has been recognized for his efforts by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Senator Chris Dodd and Rep. Rob Simmons and was selected by the Department of Health to participate at the 2002 National Conference on Tobacco or Health.

International Grant Winner: Meghan Pasricha, 17, of Hockessin, Delaware, is an 11th grader at the Sanford School. She is the state president-elect and a council member of Delaware's Kick Butts Generation (KBG), the statewide youth anti-tobacco movement. She is also the founder and president of the Sanford School's Anti-Tobacco Action Club (ATAC). Among other accomplishments, Meghan helped convince Delaware legislators to pass one of the strongest smoke-free workplace laws in the country.

Meghan successfully organized and conducted several training sessions for Indian Youth Leaders during a trip last summer to Mhow, India. Utilizing her Hindi language skills, she personally developed and adapted a multi-media awareness program and worked with the Indian Youth Leaders to develop presentations for both rural and urban Indian audiences. Since Meghan's training, the Indian Youth Leaders have educated over 1,500 people about the dangers of tobacco. Meghan, who is proficient in Spanish, is also preparing to launch a KBG chapter in Mexico. She plans to develop a website that will provide a forum for creating a global youth anti-tobacco advocacy network.

East Region: Ashley Sobrinski, who turns 16 today, of Seaville, New Jersey, is a 10th grader at Ocean City High School. Over the past year, Ashley led a Smoke-Free Boardwalk Campaign that led to passage of an ordinance making the Ocean City Boardwalk smoke-free. She crafted message points on public health, fire safety and property damage issues, and worked closely with local fire departments to educate the public about a series of boardwalk fires caused by cigarettes that led to millions of dollars in damages. Ashley's most recent campaign has been working towards a smoke-free Cape May County Zoo.

Ashley has been a member of Ocean City SCAT (Student Coalition Against Tobacco) and NJ REBEL (Reaching Everyone by Exposing Lies) for the past four years. She sits on SCAT's executive board as treasurer, and is the chairperson of their FDA Promotion Committee, which advocates for legislation to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. Ashley also founded S.E.A. (Smoking Education and Awareness), an educational program for elementary school students.

South Region: Ritney Castine, 16, of Napoleonville, Louisiana, is an 11th grader at Assumption High School. As a founding member of Peers Against Tobacco in Assumption Parish, Louisiana, Ritney has served as the group's president for the past two years. He plans to take the group statewide, making it Louisiana's official youth anti-tobacco movement. He has been working with advocates across the state to repeal a state preemption law that takes away the authority of cities and towns to enact smoke-free workplace policies. His was recognized by Louisiana Attorney General Richard P. Ieyoub as the 2002 Louisiana Youth Advocate of the Year and received the state Office of Public Health's Youth Advocate of the Year Award in both 2001 and 2002.

Most recently, on April 2, Ritney helped to organize hundreds of students at the state capital for a Kick Butts Day youth rally calling for repeal of the preemption law. Members of Peers Against Tobacco also met with state legislators to deliver this message and their town's resolutions in person.

Central Region: Kelsey Hills-Evans, 17, of Boulder, Colorado, is an 11th grader at Fairview High School. She serves on the Leadership Committee and as a youth spokesperson for Get R!EAL, Colorado's youth tobacco control movement. Kelsey is also a member of her community coalition, the Alliance of Boulder County on Tobacco and Health. Her efforts with the Alliance of Boulder County on Tobacco and Health led to the passage of a smoke-free workplace law in Louisville, Colorado.

Kelsey and Get R!EAL are best known for traveling to the Winter X Games in Aspen to protest The Lorillard Tobacco Company's sponsorship of the event. Over 40 youth advocates arrived at the mountain wearing sweatshirts that read 'Big Tobacco, we don't buy it,' and handed out fliers to educate the crowd about the sponsorship and the tobacco industry's history of targeting kids.

West Region: Juanita Recinos, 16, of San Francisco, California, is an 11th grader at Mission High School. She has been an active member of and spokesperson for the Youth Community Health Organizing Project (Yoco-Hop) for almost four years. She also works closely with the San Francisco Tobacco-Free Coalition on a global partnership with a buddy group in El Salvador that has resulted in the passage of a Clean Indoor Air act in San Miguel, El Salvador.

Juanita was instrumental in leading members of Yoco-Hop in their efforts to pass the Commercial-Free Schools Act for all San Francisco public schools. The act began as a ban on the sale and advertisement of tobacco company subsidiary products on school grounds. It expanded and now also prohibits all vendor contracts and brand name products from being sold in San Francisco public schools. Juanita is currently working to enforce the ban and educate schools across the city about the act's provisions.

Group: XPOZ members range from 16 to 20 years old and attend various high schools and colleges in the Las Vegas area, as well as colleges across the United States. Twenty-nine youth advocates in Las Vegas launched the group in 2000. In 2001, they held their first summit, the Kick Ash Bash, with 300 youth from across the state. Since the summit, the movement has grown to over 2,500 Nevada teens.

XPOZ is working to repeal a state law preempting local smoke-free workplace policies, bringing attention to this battle through extensive media outreach, including a youth-created advertisement. Until the state law is repealed, they are encouraging the adoption of voluntary smoke-free policies in local communities.

The Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition recognized XPOZ with its Award for Excellence in Tobacco Prevention in both 2000 and 2001. XPOZ has also been honored with the Youth Leadership Las Vegas Appreciation Award in 2001 and the Clark County Public Health Hero Award in 2002.

The Champion Award Winners are:

Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore has worked tirelessly to hold the tobacco industry accountable for its toll on the U.S. In 1994 he filed the first state lawsuit against the tobacco companies seeking to require them to reimburse Mississippi for the costs it incurred treating smoking related illnesses. At the time, no one thought he could win and many thought he had committed political suicide. Instead, this lawsuit served as the catalyst for fundamental change. The suit resulted in the 1997 settlement with the tobacco industry, a $4.1 billion settlement for Mississippi, and the November 1998 settlement that covered 46 other states. Mike Moore then made sure that Mississippi used its settlement funds wisely by serving as the Chairman of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, the state's tobacco prevention program. Since its inception, the Partnership has reduced teen smoking rates by 30 percent.

Dr. Steve Schroeder oversaw The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's growth as President and CEO from 1990 to 2002, and committed the Foundation to using a sizable portion of its precious assets to fighting tobacco. During his tenure, assets rose from $2.6 billion to over $8 billion. Dr. Schroeder is a pioneer in the field of tobacco prevention. Dr. Schroeder showed tremendous vision in taking action against tobacco at a time when there was little funding directed toward tobacco prevention, and even fewer people who were willing to take a stand against the industry. Under his leadership, the Foundation supported the type of national leadership initiatives, state and community programs, policy research, and advocacy and media activities that helped to bring about a sea-of-change in public opinion and legislative policies and contributed to the dramatic decrease in youth tobacco use. In his current role as Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, UCSF, he heads a Foundation-supported Smoking Cessation Leadership Center.


The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids works to protect kids from tobacco and reduce the deaths and disease caused by tobacco use. For more information, visit the Campaign's Web site at