Youth and the fight against the tobacco industry, Part 2

Youth and the fight against the tobacco industry, Part 2

This is the second of two stories on youth partners written in collaboration with Dr. Lucia Pawlowski’s Community Writing for Social Justice Class at the University of St. Thomas. By Claire Rossez, Special to ANSR Flavored tobacco is a personal topic for William: His younger sister once told him she wanted to try some but did not know how to get it.  He said, “I just knew my mom wouldn’t [let her have it]…and I knew it was not for kids.” William’s sister was about seven years old at the time, a startling demonstration of how the tobacco companies’ marketing pulls in even young children.  This experience showed William how being a youth who is targeted by the tobacco industry means it is up to him to lead the fight against the industry. At first glance, William seems to be a typical 12-year-old. He just finished the  sixth grade, is part of the stage crew in his school’s musical, and likes to get involved in the community. The work he does and the wisdom he possesses, however, are what set him apart from most kids, and adults too. William works with a group called Vision in Living Life: Change is Possible (VILL), a local youth leadership program that promotes growth through community engagement. It is one of ANSR’s partners. William volunteers to raise awareness in the Twin Cities and to advocate against smoking and the tobacco industry.  He is so passionate about combatting the harms of tobacco, and has twice gone to the State Capitol to speak to his legislators. “At the Capitol, I [talked] about how flavored tobacco...
Youth and the fight against the tobacco industry

Youth and the fight against the tobacco industry

This is the first of two stories on youth partners written in collaboration with Dr. Lucia Pawlowski’s Community Writing for Social Justice Class at the University of St. Thomas. By Sam Heggem, Special to ANSR The tobacco industry has long targeted youth through deceptive, insidious ad campaigns. The tobacco industry recognizes vulnerability and capitalizes on this to create life-long smokers. However, this is not a one-way battle. The same youth who have been subjected to the manipulative campaigns of the tobacco industry are now fighting back. Starnisha McClellan is a longtime member of Breathe Free North, a tobacco education program centered in North Minneapolis at NorthPoint Health & Welness. The group focuses largely on reducing the exposure of youth to tobacco products. She and Breathe Free North have been actively involved in the recent policy work. Starnisha helped lead the charge in 2015 to get restrictions on flavored tobacco products passed in Minneapolis. She helped gather data to strengthen the argument for getting this proposal passed. She also testified in front of the Minneapolis City Council in May 2015. As a result of the work of Starnisha and Breathe Free North, as of January 2016, flavored tobacco products are limited to being sold in 18-over tobacco shops only. Starnisha has been an activist since she was 11. Now 19 and graduated from high school, Starnisha is pursuing her passion and working for Breathe Free North full-time. Starnisha has a personal stake in the fight against tobacco control, as her family has been affected by the tobacco industry’s campaign of targeting youth. Starnisha’s younger sister smokes cigarettes and has been...
Minneapolis restricts flavored tobacco products

Minneapolis restricts flavored tobacco products

  Minneapolis City Council restricts flavored tobacco products The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on July 10 to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, other than menthol, to adult-only tobacco shops. The Council also increased the price of cigars to $2.60 per stick. Four cities in Minnesota, including Maplewood, Bloomington, Saint Paul and Brooklyn Center, previously adopted policies that regulate the price of cheap cigars. However, no other Minnesota cities have restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products. Nationally, New York City and Providence, RI, have similar policies in place that served as a model for the Minneapolis ordinance. The new policy means that only about 15 of the city’s 400-plus tobacco vendors will be allowed to sell candy-flavored tobacco products. In order to sell these products, the stores must derive at least 90 percent of their revenue from tobacco and be adult-only at all times. Council Members Blong Yang (Ward 5) and Cam Gordon (Ward 2) co-authored the ordinance in response to input from youth in the Minneapolis Youth Congress and the Breathe Free North program at NorthPoint Health & Wellness. The youth said these products are appealing to young people in their communities. “We heard loud and clear from Minneapolis youth that flavored tobacco products are what most kids use when they start smoking,” Council Member Cam Gordon said. “We believe that limiting access to these products will help prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and dramatically improve the health of future generations.” Opponents of the policy included convenience store owners and chains, such as Holiday, SuperAmerica, Bobby & Steve’s, retailer associations, and Altria the...
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