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Youth Advocates of the Year
Our Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor top young leaders in the fight against tobacco — individuals who have advocated for tobacco prevention policies, taken on the tobacco industry and its deceptive marketing and helped keep peers tobacco-free. In May of each year, we honor a National winner, a Group winner and four Regional winners (East, South, Central and West).
Meet our 2014 Winners
National Youth Advocate of the Year
Magi Linscott, 17
Magi joined her county’s chapter of the statewide Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program as a freshman. She first learned about the devastating effects of tobacco when her grandmother died of a tobacco-related disease.
To reduce tobacco use among her peers, Magi successfully worked to pass a countywide K-12 Comprehensive Tobacco Policy that bans tobacco use on school grounds and at school-sanctioned events off campus. She has also advocated for Florida counties to pass resolutions supporting a ban on candy-flavored tobacco. Over the past year, Magi has tapped into the power of social media to promote Florida’s new “Not a Replacement” tobacco prevention campaign. Youth are encouraged to send “selfie statements” to tobacco companies – photos of themselves with handwritten signs telling Big Tobacco that they are not replacement smokers, but individuals.
Partnering with AmeriCorps and United Way, Magi also led a community “Tobacco-Free Farm Share” “that provided five tons of free food to people in need in Santa Rosa County. No smoking or tobacco use was allowed at the event, and Magi made sure recipients also went home with tobacco prevention and cessation materials. More than 2,000 people attended and 1,200 families received food.
The H.E.A.R.T. Coalition
Deshanda Smarr, 16; Desha Smarr, 15; Cantrell Foster, 18; Joseph Cole, 18
The H.E.A.R.T. Coalition has raised awareness of and taken action against tobacco throughout Atlanta and in the African-American community in particular.
Last year, the group led a successful campaign for a tobacco-free parks ordinance. First, they gathered signatures for a petition, which they presented at three town hall meetings. Later, they attended a City Council meeting and informed council members about problems such as secondhand smoke and cigarette butt litter that tobacco was causing in community parks. The youth then identified and partnered with a city councilwoman who championed the cause. With her help, the ordinance passed with unanimous support. The H.E.A.R.T. Coalition has since conducted surveys and continued to educate the community on the benefits of smoke-free parks.
In addition, the group has created displays with tobacco facts and counter-marketing posters for area malls. They also organized World No Tobacco Day and Great American Smokeout events to call attention to tobacco industry marketing to African Americans and promote the Georgia tobacco quit line.
Their next goals include working on a countywide smoke-free ordinance and fighting tobacco marketing in the African American community.
East Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Devan Ogburn, 16
Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Devan is passionate about tobacco control because many of her relatives are tobacco users. For the past two years, she has served as President of the Maryland Association of Student Councils and has used that position to be a leader in fighting tobacco use. She has led efforts in support of the Healthy Maryland Initiative, a campaign to increase the state tobacco tax by $1 per pack and fund tobacco prevention and health care initiatives. She has conducted workshops and presentations to her peers and subsequently gained the endorsement and support of all local Student Council Associations in the state.
Devan has spoken before the Maryland State Board of Education about the need for youth involvement in tobacco policy change. She has participated in press conferences and testified before the Senate Taxation and Budget Committee.
Central Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Becky Bade, 16
New Bloomfield, Missouri
Becky is a member of the Tobacco-Free Missouri Youth Advisory Board and has been involved in tobacco control since middle school.
She has spoken at City Council meetings in support of smoke-free legislation in the city of Holts Summit – and learned firsthand just how resistant elected officials can be to regulating tobacco.
In 2012, she worked in support of a ballot measure that would have raised Missouri’s very low tax rate on cigarettes and other tobacco products. After the measure’s defeat, she continued fighting the tobacco industry by starting the “Stand Up to Tobacco” campaign, which invited people across the state to share personal stories about how tobacco had affected them. The Youth Advisory Board collected over 2,400 cards from over 80 communities and displayed them during Tobacco-Free Missouri’s Capitol Day.
Becky has also worked to promote awareness of tobacco in schools, organized tobacco-free fairs, led community service initiatives and planned Kick Butts Day events.
South Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Chandler Ash, 17
Chandler got involved in fighting tobacco in middle school through Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) after watching his grandfather struggle with his tobacco addiction.
He set a goal of reducing youth tobacco use in his county, and much of his advocacy work has revolved around the problem of fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products. As a result of Chandler’s work to educate his county commissioners, the County Commission passed an ordinance requiring all candy-flavored tobacco to be placed behind the counter, out of the sight and reach of children. The Commission also passed a resolution recommending that tobacco retailers refrain from selling candy-flavored tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes.
Last summer, Chandler led a group of youth advocates to speak with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio’s staff, and Representative Ted Yoho about the problem of candy- and fruit-flavored cigars.
West Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Spencer Flanders, 15
Carson City, Nevada
Spencer Flanders has been involved in fighting tobacco since the 6th grade through his local group, Students Taking on Prevention (STOP). He is now the group’s president. Spencer became passionate about the issue when he learned tobacco companies target young people like him. He approaches anti-tobacco advocacy as a social justice issue.
Spencer successfully worked to get his county to adopt a smoke-free parks policy, identifying the problem, building support and assembling a coalition that was instrumental in the adoption of the policy. He first organized a group of his peers to pick up cigarette butts in local parks. He then met with the Douglas County Parks and Recreation board to present his findings. As a result, the Director of Parks enthusiastically supported the policy change at the County Commission.
Spencer is currently leading a campaign to encourage local businesses to institute smoke-free entrances.