Hawai’i Teenagers Fighting Against Tobacco Honored at National Awards Ceremony
Members of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Youth Council were honored at a virtual national celebration Sept. 29 as Group Youth Advocates of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Each year, the Hawai’i Youth Council hosts Taking Down Tobacco Day, where students from various islands make their voices heard as one when they 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 rallies, murals and other demonstrations across Hawaiʻi to increase awareness, improve education and build grassroots support. The group also hosted presentations throughout the year to educate peers and community members across Hawaiʻi.
In addition to their day of action, Hawai’i Youth Council members worked year-round with local leaders on policies to protect kids and vulnerable communities from the harmful effects of tobacco. In Hawaiʻi, tobacco use claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 5.3% of Hawaii’s high school students smoke cigarettes and 30.6% use e-cigarettes. To combat the toll of tobacco in Hawaiʻi, the Youth Council advocates to end the sale of flavored tobacco products and preserve dedicated funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.
The honored Hawai’i Youth Council members included: Nikkya Taliaferro, Moanalua High School graduate and Howard University student; Joshua Ching and Logan Lau, Kamehameha Schools Kapalama students; and Holly Taguma, Kauaʻi High School.
“We are thrilled to honor the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Youth Council as our Group Youth Advocates of the Year,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The Coalition is a model organization rallying others in the fight for healthier, more equitable communities. They are proud that a group of young people can come together and stand up to the tobacco industry, while inspiring their peers to be tobacco-free and encouraging elected officials to take action.”
Every year, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids honors a National Youth Advocate of the Year, four Individual Youth Advocates of the Year and Group Youth Advocates of the Year. The winners receive scholarships to continue their tobacco prevention efforts and serve as youth ambassadors for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Additional information about the youth award winners can be found at tfk.org/awards and more resources and information about tobacco can be found at tobaccofreekids.org. More information about the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii’s Youth Council and applications to join can be found at hiphi.org/youth.