Kids Get Real About Tobacco

Today is Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism created by our partner, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and mobilize their communities in fighting tobacco use. While youth smoking has fallen to record lows, youth use of some tobacco products, especially electronic cigarettes, is on the rise. Through our partnership, we’ve seen significant progress made in helping youth lead tobacco-free lives and empowering them to speak out on tobacco issues in their communities.

We recently had an opportunity to speak with Jada, a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Youth Advocate, about her involvement with the organization, her thoughts on youth tobacco use, and why she feels it’s so important to advocate for living tobacco-free.

What inspired you to get involved with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids?

I got involved with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids because I joined the RealTalkTobacco class series at The Advocacy Institute in Philadelphia last summer. When I showed up for the first RealTalkTobacco class, I learned that 480,000 people lose their lives each year from tobacco-related illnesses in the U.S. alone. I realized that could easily be any one of my own family members or loved ones. I have a couple immediate family members who smoke, including my father and grandmother. I understood that tobacco is addictive – and it is not as easy to quit as it is to pick up a cigarette. I stay inspired through my anti-tobacco advocacy work because I know that everyone has a story related to tobacco, and through storytelling and our work to change the narrative, comes healing.

What issue in the area of tobacco do you think teens need to be most concerned with? What do you think are the key factors that might lead young people to smoke?

The issue that I think teens should be most concerned with is the most important fact about tobacco products: they kill. They’re highly addictive and expose you to a lot of harmful chemicals. Once you start smoking it's extremely hard for you to quit.

There are so many issues in tobacco control that I think youth should be aware of as far as advocacy work, but I think the biggest issue that should matter to young people is that they are targeted to become replacement smokers for the nearly half a million Americans who die from smoking every year. Tobacco companies target young people through vibrant and colorful packaging and branding of tobacco products as well as the many placements of their advertisements and products in retailer locations.

Some key factors that might lead young people to smoke are seeing their role models do it, peer pressure and the illusion that tobacco relieves stress. The reality is that tobacco does not make you cool, it is not something you're missing out on and it does not relieve stress. But so many young people from a variety of backgrounds turn to tobacco so that they can relax and feel relief about their problems with each cigarette they smoke. But I've learned from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids that studies actually prove that smoking does not relieve stress and smokers have higher levels of stress and anxiety than non-smokers.

What would you like to accomplish as a CTFK Youth Advocate and what key issues are you raising awareness of/advocating for in your community?

As a Youth Advocate for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, I would like to accomplish the goal of making Philadelphia the first major city in the United States to drop the youth smoking rate down to ZERO through the #Philly1st campaign. I believe that if we reached our goal we would set a precedent for other cities to join us and lower their youth smoking rates as well.

I would also like to be an inspiration for other young people or even adults to stand up for what they believe in, make sustainable changes in their communities, and know that no matter who you are, your story and your voice does matter.

The key issues I have been and will continue to work on in my city are youth smoking and tobacco-free pharmacies.

I'm eager to start more aggressive and consistent work for our #TobaccoFreePharms campaign because this is and should be an important issue for all of us. Pharmacies were created to be a place of health in our communities, but instead they have become oxymorons by selling a product that is proven to be highly addictive, poisonous and kills thousands of people each year with no purpose of healing one's body or health. Everyone should follow the movement that CVS Health has started by banning the sale of tobacco products in all of its CVS Pharmacy locations across the country.

By shining a light on these two issues and informing others, together we can end tobacco use for good.

In honor of Kick Butts Day, the CVS Health Foundation has announced its second round of grantees in partnership with Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a joint effort to reduce youth tobacco use, especially among at-risk populations, increase youth engagement in tobacco prevention activities, and educate the public about the problem of and solutions to youth tobacco use in local communities.

The new “Making the Next Generation Tobacco-Free” grants are part of Be The First, CVS Health’s $50 million, five-year initiative to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation and extend the company’s commitment to help people lead tobacco-free lives. For more information, visit Vist to join the social media movement.

Jada, a Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids youth advocate.