San Ramon, CA
Agamroop Kaur’s advocacy work began in middle school when she noticed that every bathroom smelled like a candy store and many of her classmates were already hooked on Juul e-cigarettes. She made it her mission to educate her peers about the dangers of vaping and to stop the tobacco industry from targeting her generation.
A mental health advocate, Agamroop worked with her school’s health teacher to start a tobacco prevention program and helped curate her school district’s very first health class tobacco curriculum. She’s also worked on successful campaigns in five California cities and Contra Costa County to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, expand smoke-free policies, and limit tobacco retailers in youth-centered areas. After Agamroop’s forceful testimony before the California Senate Health Committee in support of a bill to end the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide, Governor Gavin Newsom invited her to the virtual bill signing ceremony. Agamroop has also served as both the Policy Committee Lead of the Stanford REACH Lab Youth Action Board and the Mental Health Subcommittee Lead of the California Youth Advocacy Network Youth Board of Directors.
Agamroop is a powerful communicator. She has authored op-eds and produced a documentary on the youth e-cigarette epidemic – titled “BIG Tobacco BIGGER Epidemic” – that won a prize in C-SPAN’s student documentary contest. She exemplifies the qualities of a new generation of leaders fighting for a healthier and more equitable future, and we are thrilled to honor her with the 2022 Barrie Fiske National Youth Advocate of the Year Award.
Rukaya discovered the power of her voice to make a difference in her community in the 9th grade, and soon became an effective and passionate advocate in the fight against tobacco use. She was inspired to get involved after witnessing the devastating effects of tobacco use on relatives both in Arkansas and Iraq.
After learning about the Project Prevent Youth Coalition, Rukaya jumped at the opportunity to create a chapter at her own high school to spread awareness about substance abuse. Her creativity has fueled her outreach initiatives, from hosting game nights to creating a tobacco awareness song parody. She notably planned and led a Do Not Do Drugs Handout event where members distributed donuts, wristbands and materials about Red Ribbon Week to engage with and educate their peers. Rukaya has also advocated at the state and federal level to increase funding for prevention and vaping awareness initiatives.
Rukaya’s work is far-reaching as she actively serves in nine different clubs, teaches 5th graders about the dangers of substance abuse and remains heavily involved in her community to spread awareness about substance abuse prevention.
Adrianna got involved in the fight against Big Tobacco during her freshman year of high school after noticing widespread e-cigarette use among her peers and witnessing the effects of tobacco use on her grandfather’s health. She enrolled in an in-depth tobacco prevention training program where she learned about the dangers of tobacco products and how to combat them.
Adrianna made it her mission to advocate for policies to protect youth, focusing successfully on getting two local school boards to implement a comprehensive policy prohibiting use or possession of tobacco products on school grounds. She then met with New Mexico legislators to advocate for the Tobacco Products Act, a new law that raised the tobacco sales age to 21 and required retailers to obtain a license to sell tobacco products. Adrianna most recently worked alongside the American Heart Association to advocate for an increase in the state’s tobacco tax.
In addition to her tobacco control work, Adrianna is very involved in her school community as a student athlete and student council member. She is a strong leader who strives to welcome her peers to join her advocacy work.
Joshua’s advocacy began his freshman year of high school after realizing how the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing practices disproportionately impacted Native Hawaiians. After joining Tobacco-Free Hawaii’s Youth Council, he quickly focused his advocacy work on policy solutions including banning flavored tobacco products, funding cessation programs and stopping online tobacco sales.
As he gained experience working with elected officials and other policymakers, Joshua quickly discovered his strength in forging strong relationships and building grassroots support. He conducted youth training workshops and peer-to-peer awareness events and encouraged students to join the fight against Big Tobacco. His achievements include organizing March Against Menthol rallies that drew hundreds of people and building support to include menthol products in legislation to end the sale of flavored tobacco products. Joshua continues to use his platform to get more young people involved in the fight for the first tobacco-free generation and says he is “committed to the fight against Big Tobacco and to the fight for justice – because that’s what it means to be Hawaiian.”
Katherine’s advocacy began at an early age after she witnessed the impact of tobacco use on her father and family. Eager to help create change and tackle the youth e-cigarette epidemic, Katherine joined her high school’s Family Career and Community Leaders of America chapter.
Katherine jumps at any opportunity to speak with her state legislators, including advocating for local communities to have the power to regulate the sale of tobacco products. She has promoted a statewide bill to overturn a preemption law and allow local governments to pass their own tobacco prevention measures. This work gave her the opportunity to speak about the e-cigarette epidemic at the Kentucky State Capitol. Even in the face of skepticism from some classmates, she leads by example and emphasizes fighting the tobacco industry and not individual tobacco users.
Aside from her tobacco control advocacy, Katherine is also involved in athletics and volunteers wherever she can make a difference in her community. Katherine’s confidence and passion for advocacy make her an invaluable voice in the fight against tobacco.
Sumner County TNSTRONG Ambassadors
Hadley Brown, Nahzah Blair, Niya Angelova and Ella Paligo
Sumner County, TN
After knowing each other for years, this group of four friends from central Tennessee decided to advocate for change in their own community. During their freshman year of high school, they started a tobacco prevention group to educate their classmates about the dangers of vaping and now serve as state representatives for the Tennessee Stop Tobacco and Revolutionize Our New Generation (TNSTRONG) Ambassador Program.
Constantly looking for new ways to connect with fellow students to promote tobacco prevention, they created their “Be a Hero, Drop Vaping to Zero” campaign and convinced 700 of their peers – as well as U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn and other elected officials – to pledge to remain vape-free. As a result of their relentless efforts, they gained the sponsorship of America’s largest health insurer, United Healthcare, and their local Sumner County Prevention Coalition.
In addition to their community work, they frequently meet with state legislators to build support for tobacco prevention efforts. They presented a universal substance abuse policy – with a focus on vaping – to the Sumner County Board of Education, which adopted the policy, and convinced the Governor to declare March as Anti-Vaping Month. Thanks to their incredible work, the state now wants to implement a TNSTRONG Ambassador Program in every high school in Tennessee.
The Sumner County TNSTRONG Ambassadors are making an impact in their school, their county and their state. They are a model organization for educating their peers and making a difference, and we are honored to name them our 2022 Group Youth Advocates of the Year.
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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.