U.S. Representative Karen Bass
Member of Congress, California 37th District
Rep. Karen Bass is serving her sixth term representing California’s 37th Congressional District. Rep. Bass serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where she is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights. She also serves on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, where she is active in working to craft sound criminal justice reform policies.
To Rep. Bass, it’s all about the children. She has demonstrated exemplary leadership and commitment in the fight against tobacco, especially in working to end the tobacco industry’s decades-long, predatory targeting of kids and the Black community with menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products.
Rep. Bass has worked tirelessly and successfully to build strong support among members of Congress for prohibiting menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. She was a powerful advocate for the Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in February 2020 that, among other things, would prohibit all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. In House floor remarks, she put it best, stating, “The marketing of e-cigarette flavors is the 2020 version of candy cigarettes and Joe Camel. There is nothing new about this strategy. We cannot and should not be ignorant to history.”
Rep. Bass was a critical leader in pushing the FDA to eliminate menthol cigarettes, resulting in the FDA’s April 2021 announcement that it will initiate rulemaking to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigarettes. She has also been a strong and influential supporter of successful legislation at the state and local levels in California to end the sale of flavored tobacco products.
Rep. Bass served as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2019 and 2020. During her tenure, the Congressional Black Caucus worked with the Congressional Hispanic, Asian Pacific American, and Native American Caucuses to demand a targeted response to the COVID-19 pandemic and initiate a national needs assessment for communities of color. She also introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – the most transformative piece of policing legislation to ever pass in a chamber of Congress.
Prior to her election to Congress, Rep. Bass served in the California State Assembly, where she made health equity a priority and where, in 2008, she made history by becoming the first-ever African American woman in U.S. history to serve as Speaker of any state legislature. She is a graduate of Cal State Dominguez Hills, the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program, and the USC Masters Program in Social Work.
Heran Gerba Borta
Director General, Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority (EFDA)
Ms. Heran Borta serves as Director-General of Ethiopia’s Food and Drug Authority (EFDA), the national authority leading the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Among her many accomplishments, Ms. Borta is the first woman and the youngest official to be appointed to this position.
As a public health leader, Ms. Borta has demonstrated a passion for protecting Ethiopian kids from the deadly impact of tobacco use. She has fought vigorously for strong tobacco control policies despite fierce tobacco industry interference.
In February 2019, thanks to Ms. Borta’s steadfast support and decisive leadership, the Ethiopian Parliament passed one of the world’s strongest tobacco control laws. Key provisions of the law include graphic health warnings on 70% of tobacco packages; 100% smoke-free indoor workplaces, public places and public transport; a ban on flavored tobacco products; a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships; a prohibition on tobacco sales to anyone under 21; and strong safeguards against tobacco industry interference in tobacco control policies.
Ms. Borta’s determination did not stop with this victory. Immediately following the law’s passage, she helped guide the implementation of graphic warning labels on tobacco products and, more recently, undertook efforts to implement sweeping smoke-free regulations. Her efforts have helped make Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, a smoke-free example for the rest of the country.
Ms. Borta is known by her colleagues for her willingness to listen to others, her ability to bring people together to build consensus, and for her unwavering commitment to protecting the health of all Ethiopians. In the face of many challenges, she has been an inspiration and a role model to her peers in government, partners in civil society and the media.
Ms. Borta holds a Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Analysis & Quality Assurance from the Addis Ababa University School of Pharmacy. She is a recipient of the WHO’s 2021 World No Tobacco Day Award in the Africa Region for her outstanding contribution to tobacco control. The Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence is a fitting recognition of the exemplary tobacco control work and accomplishments of Ms. Heran Borta and her team.
Elk Grove, CA
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.
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’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.
Union City, CA
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.
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.
Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii Youth Council
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.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is the leading advocacy organization working to reduce tobacco use and its deadly consequences in the United States and around the world. Through strategic communications and policy advocacy campaigns, we promote the adoption of proven solutions that are most effective at reducing tobacco use and save the most lives. Through our youth initiatives, we foster young leaders who are striving to make the next generation tobacco-free. Our vision is a future free from the death and disease caused by tobacco.
The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), a program of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, draws on the successes and lessons learned in the fight against tobacco to improve public health around the globe. In our eighth year, GHAI supports civil society organizations who advocate for public health policies that reduce death and disease. We help local partners strengthen their advocacy capacity and provide ongoing strategic and technical assistance as they design and execute advocacy campaigns to change policies that save lives across a variety of public health issues and in diverse political systems.