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Bonifay teen one of nine florida teens named National Youth Ambassadors for Campaign for Tabacco Free Kids

Staff Writer
Washington County News

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nine Florida students have been named as National Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for demonstrating leadership in fighting tobacco use in their communities.

These young leaders were among 133 youth and young adults from 33 states who participated in the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Digital Advocacy Symposium, a five-day online training session focused on building advocacy, communications and leadership skills.

The Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors will work with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to advocate for effective policies to reduce youth tobacco use at the federal, state and local levels. These policies include ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes that are addicting a new generation of kids.

Included in these nine students is Devyn Langley from Bonifay, Langley is a 16-year-old incoming high school junior. She has been involved in tobacco control and prevention for two years, locally with Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). As an Ambassador, Devyn will use her perspective on tobacco use from her community and peers to educate on the industry's harmful tactics.

“We are thrilled to welcome this new class of Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors, whose passion and leadership will help us create the first tobacco-free generation,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Young people are critical voices in the fight against tobacco because they speak from experience about how they are targeted by the tobacco industry. Policy makers should listen and support strong policies to protect our kids, including a prohibition on all flavored tobacco products.”

While the United States has greatly reduced youth smoking, use of e-cigarettes among young people has skyrocketed in recent years. From 2017 to 2019, e-cigarette use more than doubled among high school students (to 27.5%) and tripled among middle school students (to 10.5%), according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. More than 5.3 million kids used e-cigarettes 2019 – an increase of more than 3 million in two years. Sweet flavors like gummy bear, mint and mango have fueled the popularity of e-cigarettes among kids.

Other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, are also popular among youth. The tobacco industry has a long history of targeting kids, Black Americans and other groups with marketing for menthol cigarettes and other flavored products, with devastating consequences. More than half of all youth smokers today – including seven out of ten Black youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing approximately 480,000 people and costing about $170 billion in health care bills each year.

In Florida, 2.1 percent of high school students smoke traditional cigarettes, while 25.6 percent use e-cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 32,300 lives in Florida each year.

The Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors were selected through a competitive application process and participated in the Digital Advocacy Symposium to become powerful advocates for change. In addition to gaining advocacy and communications skills, these young leaders learned about how tobacco use is a social justice issue because of tobacco-related health disparities due to the tobacco industry’s longtime targeting of minority populations.

Other Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors from Florida also included include:

Lisbet Figueroa, 17, is from Port St. Lucie, Florida and a rising high school senior. She has been involved in tobacco control and prevention for three years, including through her local Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) group. As an Ambassador, Lisbet will expand her knowledge of smoking and vaping products, and expand her network of advocates in her community to raise awareness and push for policy change.

Nicholas Martinez, 17, is from Doral, Florida and a rising high school senior. A second-year Tobacco-Free Kids Ambassador, Nicholas will continue to advocate for policy change at the state and federal level this year, including with his group Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT). He will build on his established relationships with his elected officials to push for change and educate his community on tobacco control issues.

Rachel Prempeh, 16, is from Kissimmee, Florida and a rising high school senior. She has been involved with tobacco control and prevention for one year, through her work with Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT). As an Ambassador, Rachel will continue working to advocate against the tobacco industry's harmful tactics, and raise awareness in her community about the dangers of smoking and vaping.

Nicolas Suarez, 21, is from Port St. Lucie, Florida and an incoming college senior. He has been involved with tobacco control for several years, and is a fourth-year Ambassador with Tobacco-Free Kids. Nicolas will continue his fight against tobacco this year, particularly within the lens of social justice and tobacco control, while mobilizing his peers to speak up in their own communities.

Alyssa Wheeler, 16, is from Lee, Florida and an incoming high school junior. She has been involved in tobacco control and prevention for two years, with the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Youth Advocacy Board. Alyssa is motivated to hold the tobacco industry accountable for their harmful tactics targeting youth, and advocate for policy change through social media.

Allyssa Williams, 17, is from Kissimmee, Florida and an incoming college freshman. She has been involved in tobacco control and prevention for six years with Florida Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT). As a second-year Tobacco-Free Kids Ambassador, Allyssa will build on her successes in advocating for policy changes at the state and federal levels and continue fighting for social justice and tobacco control.

Kamya Williams, 16, is from Winter Haven, Florida and a rising high school junior. She has been involved with tobacco control and prevention for two years, including through Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and HOSA Future Health Professionals. As an Ambassador, she will build on her track record of advocacy for strong legislation at the state and federal levels and educate her community on the dangers of tobacco use.

Travales Woodard, 17, is from Kissimmee, Florida and an incoming high school senior. He has been involved in tobacco control and prevention for four years, through Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT). As an Ambassador, Travales will enhance his advocacy and leadership skills to call out the tobacco industry's targeting of youth and other vulnerable groups, and educate his peers on the consequences of smoking and vaping.

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About The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — 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, Tobacco-Free Kids promotes the adoption of proven solutions that are most effective at reducing tobacco use and save the most lives. Learn more at www.tobaccofreekids.org.