Over the past three years, my involvement as a youth advocate has afforded me amazing opportunities traveling from our state to our nation’s capitol buildings and spreading the message that the next generation wants to be free from the burden of tobacco use.
As president of the Tobacco Free Missouri Youth Advisory Board, I lead a group of students from across the state in planning programs and events to create change in Missouri. For our efforts in 2012, the Tobacco Free Missouri Youth Advisory Board was recognized last year by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids as Youth Advocates of the Year. From that point forward we have focused our attention on the “Clearing the Air” Campaign, an effort to make the state capitol buildings smoke-free.
Fueled by celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on the Health Hazards of, we have been encouraging kids across Missouri to never start using tobacco products.
The Tobacco-Free Missouri-related events culminated with my trip to Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, when I was invited to speak on a panel that included Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products Mitch Zeller. I was honored to be a part of this press conference because it marked the launch of the first youth-targeted tobacco prevention campaign: “The Real Cost”. The FDA is investing more than $100 million over the next year in this ad campaign that will span Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, along with TV advertisements. The advertisements put the topic of tobacco use in an easy-to-understand message that is bound to grab the attention of youth across the country.
As I mentioned at the press conference, my interest in tobacco prevention began when I worked as a smoking cessation counselor at Casa de Salud, a clinic that primarily treats the Hispanic community in St. Louis, Mo. Seeing the hold nicotine had over the people that came to seek help quitting opened my eyes to the importance of making sure my peers never start.
From here, the sky’s the limit! I want to continue to encourage my peers to become a part of this important movement. We won’t stop until we see real change in Missouri and beyond.