Native youth selected to tobacco control council

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WASHINGTON – Stephanie Dobbins, Cherokee, and Tyson Suzuki, Blackfeet, are two of 15 students nationwide selected to the Youth Activism Council of the American Legacy Foundation, the largest national public health foundation dedicated to preventing teens from smoking and providing resources to smokers who want to quit.

Chosen from a competitive field of more than 70 nominees, Dobbins and Suzuki will help Legacy continue to creatively and effectively convey the health risks of using tobacco products to young people as well as provide training and resources to other organizations.

Each year, more than 400,000 Americans die from tobacco-related diseases, including heart disease, cancers, emphysema and stroke. Educational efforts like the work of the Youth Activism Council are essential to reaching young people before they take up smoking, a life-threatening habit.

“Legacy is delighted to provide this rich educational and civic experience to the youth who volunteer their time and expertise to the Youth Activism Council,” said Cheryl Healton, Legacy’s president and CEO. “Many of the foundation’s programs focus on youth and we will benefit enormously from the council members time and effort. They also set an admirable example for their peers by working so hard and creatively to help us combat a life-threatening addiction.”

Dobbins, an 18-year-old senior at Tahlequah High School in Oklahoma, was selected to Legacy’s YAC because of her demonstrated interest in and commitment to tobacco control initiatives. In Oklahoma, she has worked at the local and state level to educate students about the dangers of smoking. She currently serves on the board of the local tobacco control program in Cherokee County, established by the Oklahoma tobacco settlement endowment trust, and is a student representative for Tahlequah’s BEST substance abuse prevention community coalition.

She first became inspired to help in the fight against big tobacco as a group leader for Students Working Against Tobacco. “I’m very excited to be working with the Youth Activism Council at the American Legacy Foundation,” Dobbins said. “While working with Legacy, I hope to broaden my knowledge of tobacco control and continue to provide important education on the issue of tobacco use in America.”

Suzuki, a senior at the University of Hawaii – Manoa, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. In Hawaii, he has used innovative media tactics at the local and state level to educate students and the public about the dangers of smoking. Suzuki served on the board of directors for a youth-led tobacco control movement in Honolulu called REAL!, where he lobbied his state Legislature for smoke-free schools. Savvy in the use of technology and the media, Suzuki worked with community organizations to develop countermarketing activities that delivered the truth about tobacco’s deadly consequences, including one that echoed the foundation’s truth campaign. For “Connect the Dots,” his group created a 150-foot scroll that depicted 2,000 people holding dot cards to signify whether they, or anyone they knew, had been affected by tobacco.

“Legacy’s youth programs attract the best, the brightest and most dedicated up-and-comers – our nation’s future public health leaders,” Healton said. “It’s a privilege to provide them with useful and interesting experiences that will help them succeed while they help others.”

For more information, visit www.americanlegacy.org.