Youth Advocates of the Year: Meet… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Our Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor top young leaders from across the country — individuals who have fought hard to promote tobacco prevention legislation, expose tobacco marketing to kids and keep peers from using tobacco.

Watch the 2021 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards

Learn more about the Youth Advocates of the Year Awards

Meet our 2021 Winners

Barrie Fiske National Youth Advocate of the Year

Milton Nguyen, Grade 11
Elk Grove, California

Milton was motivated to get involved in tobacco prevention by his grandfather, a life-long tobacco user. He quickly realized the power of his voice to make a difference for the health of his community and peers. A passionate, driven and effective advocate, Milton’s work has spanned the local, state and national levels.

Milton has never let his age limit his capabilities. Highlights include testifying before the Sacramento City Council in support of legislation to end the sale of flavored tobacco products (successfully passed), rallying youth for a large virtual tobacco education event (Youth Quest 2021), and being one of the first high school students to intern with Action on Smoking & Health (a partner in the tobacco prevention movement).

Milton is an irreplaceable Voice in the Fight for the first tobacco-free generation. As the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids celebrates our 25th anniversary and 25 years of youth advocacy, he embodies the qualities of a new generation of leaders who are fighting with us for a healthier and more equitable future. We’re thrilled to honor him with the 2021 Barrie Fiske National Youth Advocate of the Year Award.

Group Youth Advocates of the Year

Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii Youth Council
Joshua Ching, Logan Lau, Holly Taguma, Nikkya Taliaferro
Honolulu, Hawaii

Equity is a key value of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii Youth Council. Despite occasional peer pressure, they have remained steadfast, consistent and committed to their goals of promoting healthier communities for those populations disproportionately impacted by the tobacco industry.

Each year, the Youth Council hosts Taking Down Tobacco Day, where youth from various islands make their voices heard as one. This includes bringing youth to meet with lawmakers at the State Capitol to advocate for policies to stop the tobacco industry from targeting young people. With the pandemic impacting in-person plans this year, the Youth Council organized smaller projects across Hawaii such as rallies, murals and other demonstrations to increase awareness, improve education and build grassroots support. The group also hosts Taking Down Tobacco presentations throughout the year to educate peers and community members across Hawaii.

In addition to their day of action, Youth Council members work year-round with local leaders to support policies to protect kids and vulnerable communities from the harmful effects of tobacco, such as ending the sale of flavored tobacco products and preserving the state’s tobacco trust fund that funds prevention and cessation programs.

One voice makes an impact, and a community of voices drives change. The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii Youth Council is a model organization leading the way to rally others in the fight for healthier, more equitable communities. Their Voices in the Fight are invaluable, and we are honored to name them our 2021 Group Youth Advocates of the Year.

Individual Youth Advocates of the Year

Grace Plowman, Grade 11
Shoreview, Minnesota

Grace began her tobacco prevention advocacy work with the Association for Nonsmokers - MN, helping conduct tobacco retailer compliance checks to prevent tobacco sales to minors. Her advocacy quickly expanded to providing testimony in support of tobacco control policies, such as local legislation to end the sale of flavored tobacco products (successful in Shoreview, MN) and raise the tobacco sale age to 21 (successful in Mounds View, MN).

As she gained advocacy experience, Grace developed her ability to forge strong relationships with policymakers and build grassroots support. Through her work with state Rep. Kelly Moller to eliminate flavored tobacco products, she helped Rep. Moller’s son get involved with ANSR and tobacco prevention work himself. Her community work captured the attention of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who presented her with the state’s honorary challenge coin.

Grace continues to use her platform to educate and get more young people involved in fighting for the first tobacco-free generation. Despite facing social and peer pressure due to her advocacy work, she remains a steadfast and persistent Voice in the Fight. We’re delighted to name Grace one of our 2021 Youth Advocates of the Year.

Vinayak Menon, Grade 10
Suwanee, Georgia

Vinayak’s advocacy began when he noticed too many peers falling victim to Big Tobacco’s relentless targeting. Eager to learn more about the e-cigarette epidemic impacting his classmates, Vinayak joined a school club and quickly rose to a leadership position.

Seeking to take his advocacy work beyond his school walls, he hosted a community-wide town hall, “2021 Facts and Strategies Concerning Substance Use One Year into the Pandemic,” focused specifically on tobacco use. The event brought together members of his community to discuss mental health and increased substance abuse and the best ways to protect kids from a lifetime of addiction. Vinayak also has advocated at the national level, speaking with policymakers in Washington, D.C. to build support for a federal ban on flavored tobacco products.

Aside from his anti-tobacco advocacy and work with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Vinayak holds leadership positions in several other organizations where he leverages his voice to make a difference for his community. His confidence and passion for advocacy make him an invaluable Voice in the Fight, and we’re thrilled to name him one of our 2021 Youth Advocates of the Year.

Aditya Indla, Grade 11
Union City, California

Aditya has worked extensively and tirelessly for a healthier, tobacco-free future. Always eager to get involved and use his voice as a Youth Ambassador with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Aditya has been especially active in his local community, organizing community-wide events, providing education and resources to neighboring schools, and circulating petitions to rally young people.

Aditya has a particular affinity for researching the science of tobacco and its harms, currently working his second year in a research lab at the University of California San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. He also became interested in addressing tobacco use in the South Asian community, founding the Aegle Project to better learn about cultural challenges to reducing tobacco use.

Aditya continues to be involved in supporting California’s new law to end the sale of flavored tobacco products. He testified before the Senate Health Committee, joined the signing ceremony by Governor Gavin Newsom and is working hard to help defeat the industry’s referendum to overturn the law. Aditya’s work is far-reaching, and his impact grows ever larger. He is a strong Voice in the Fight for a healthier and more equitable future, and we’re excited to name him one of our 2021 Youth Advocates of the Year.

Madeline Erickson, Grade 11
Bismarck, North Dakota

From a young age, Madeline’s mother educated her about the dangers of tobacco and the manipulative targeting of young people by the tobacco industry. When Madeline reached high school, she realized that many of her peers were vaping and weren’t as fortunate to have the same information.

Madeline made it her mission to pay knowledge forward, educating her peers and helping them reject Big Tobacco. She is a member of the Bismarck Break Free youth board and helps plan the annual Youth Action Summits for tobacco prevention. She’s held events at her school like “Donut Day”—a fun and playful reminder to “Donut Smoke” and “Donut Vape”—and took her advocacy to her elected leaders, supporting legislation to raise the tobacco age in localities across North Dakota, most notably successfully protecting the North Dakota Smoke-Free Law, and writing letters to the editor in support of other local tobacco prevention measures.

In addition to her tobacco prevention work, Madeline is student council president and works with numerous organizations to benefit her peers. She believes that enthusiasm in her advocacy is crucial to success and strives to make her peers feel welcome in joining her. Madeline is a natural leader and an exceptional Voice in the Fight. We are happy to name her one of our 2021 Youth Advocates of the Year.