A colleague of mine used to direct the youth advocacy program at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and I've worked with enough of the past recipients of the Youth Advocates of the Year Awards to recognize that the contributions of young people to the tobacco control field are unique, highly creative, and extremely critical. Since the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' 13th Annual Youth Advocate of the Year Awards Gala was held last week at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC, I'd like to briefly highlight the 2009 recipients of this great program.
"The Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor the outstanding work of young advocates who have taken the lead in holding the tobacco industry accountable for their efforts to market their products to youth." The 2009 National Youth Advocate of the Year is Emily Kile, 17, of Greenfield, IN, who is active with Indiana's youth-led movement against the tobacco industry. The 2009 Group Winner is REAL: Hawaii Youth Movement Exposing the Tobacco Industry, which works through peer to peer marketing and grassroots mobilization. The powerful work of these national winners is also mirrored in the efforts of the 2009 Regional Youth Advocates of the Year. With almost 90% of U.S. smokers starting the habit before age 18, these young advocates are reaching their peers across the country with a strong anti-industry message at a critical point. They're "kicking butt!"