Surgeon General: ‘Desperate Need of Clarity’ on E-Cigarettes

A lot of grey areas on this one…


2015 – Change is Coming to Texas Universities!

Hey! Darrien here,
2014 was an amazing year for tobacco prevention and activism in general, but I am excited about 2015! Spring of last year, I started working with the University of Texas School of Public Health on a new state-wide college tobacco prevention initiative. This new project is the first state level tobacco prevention college initiative in the world! I was honored to have a position at the table and help plan/implement such an amazing program. In the fall, I officially had a role in the development of the initiative as the lead of peer recruitment and social media manager. However, during campus recruitment and the beginning phases I did not have to work much on student recruitment and the social media campaign was still in development.10873498_308112779383446_7328780226241035513_o

2015 is when the real change will happen!
The college tobacco prevention initiative will launch this week in Austin, Texas at the first College Initiative Summit. Over 20 college campus’ will be represented by administrators and students from all across the state of Texas with one common goal, reduce the amount of tobacco use by Texas college students. This new initiative will formally be named- “Peers Against Tobacco.” When the whole initiative is launched we will start posting on all social media channels. Since, you’re awesome and you have read this post up to this point you can follow the social media accounts for Peers Against Tobacco before anyone else!
The momentum that we have already seen with this initiative has been amazing! There have been a lot of dedicated individuals working on different components of the project to bring it all together. Peers Against Tobacco will change the norms of tobacco use on college campuses in Texas, it will promote prevention/education and cessation, it will connect students to their universities, it will help students make policy change on their campus’ and it will keep current high school advocates in tobacco prevention engaged when they enter college.
This initiative has been a dream of mine since I graduated high school and moved to San Marcos, Texas, to attend Texas State University. My freshman year I tried to start a tobacco prevention group on campus but I had no idea where to start. Now students will have Peers Against Tobacco as a resource to guide them through implementing tobacco prevention on their campus. I look forward to meeting new people throughout 2015 and working with them to prevent tobacco use among college students in Texas.

If you are a college student at a Texas college and interested in joining this movement then shoot me an email!

Got to go! I have a flight to a youth conference in Indiana to catch!

Lets make change happen in 2015!

TA Fall In-Service 2014

My fellow consultant in the middle/high school tobacco prevention initiative, Say What!, that I work with wrote this awesome blog that sums up what it is like to be a college student working with high school youth to change their communities!

Awkward Alicia

When I left Conference in 2011, I knew I probably hadn’t made it through the Texas Teen Ambassador application/interview process. The youth who were leading during Conference were far too awesome for me to ever fit in. I was intimidated to say the least, because I had seen a level of leadership set at a bar that was very high. However, I knew that I’d given my best effort during my interview and shared my experience and expertise to the best of my ability on my application. I just had to wait.

And in came the Acceptance Letter a few weeks later.


My first In-Service as a TA was, quite frankly, one of the most stressful experiences of my life. There were people I didn’t know, words I didn’t understand, and what the heck is a teambuilding activity and why are we participating in so many?? My body doesn’t…

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Child Workers on AMERICAN Tobacco Farms


We have all seen the ads about child labor in third world countries and how we should not buy this product or that product because it is made by children in poor working conditions. Typically we look past these ads and act like child labor is not an issue because it is not happening here Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 1.22.11 AMin America so it does not apply to us. However, this new report from the Human Rights Watch nonprofit group highlights the issue of child labor on tobacco farms here in America.

Even though it is surprising that child labor is happening in our backyard, it is not surprising that the tobacco industry is the cause o it. The tobacco industry is the most manipulative industry in the world and is known for their history of deception and lies. This new report exposes their actions and tells the real life stories of the children that work on these dangerous farms; some as young as 7. It also shows us that child labor is still a huge issue in America that most of us overlook. Children (under the age of 18) can work in agriculture as young as the age of 12 with parental consent and children under 12 can work along-side a parent in an agricultural occupation.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 1.21.13 AMMost of these workers are migrants from other countries that moved to America for a better life, but at the farms they are exposed to hazardous chemicals, dangerous working conditions, long rigorous hours and unfair pay. The tobacco from these farms are bought by the 5 largest tobacco industries in the world. Most of these companies deny that there is an issue with child labor on their tobacco farms and have implemented guidelines (safety precautions) to make the working conditions “safer.” However, these workers are being exposed to nicotine poisoning because of the nicotine that is being absorbed through their skin. The symptoms of nicotine poisoning are nausea, vomiting, headaches, etc. As well, they are being exposed to dangerous pesticide chemicals that are being used in the fields and they work with dangerous equipment that can cut them during harvest. To dry the tobacco they have to hang it  from the rafters of old barns; which is another risk because of the heights that these children have to climb to.

It is awful that child labor is still an issue in America and there is obviously a lot that we can, and should, improve in our system. The government should step in and regulate child labor more in the agriculture industry so that all children are protected from unfair treatment like this. It is illegal for individuals under the age of 18 to buy tobacco products, but it is legal for them to work on a tobacco farm and still expose themselves to the harmful chemicals. Individuals under the age of 18 should not be allowed to legally work on tobacco farms. The Human Rights Watch group has done an amazing job with this report and creating supporting content to go along with it. They have created  a petition that people can sign to urge the tobacco industries to stop using children to harvest their products.

Vaporized: E-Cigarettes, Advertising, and Youth

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.36.45 AMScreen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.43.02 AMToday the Legacy for Health Foundation released their report Vaporized: E-Cigarettes, Advertising, and Youth, about the current trends of e-cigarette use amongst youth and the deeming regulations that were recently released by the FDA. The deeming document will set the national minimum age of 18 for the purchase of e-cigarettes. However, “it is essential that the regulation also prohibits marketing of these products to youth, something not included in the
proposal.”  According to the Center for Disease Control, the use of e-cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012 among middle and high school students and adults (18-34). As well, spending on advertising has risen from $5.6 million in 2010 to $82.1 million in 2013. “Overall, e-cigarette advertisers spent $39 million from June through November 2013, with magazines and national TV accounting for more than three-quarters of dollars spent.” Now that the Big Tobacco industries have taken over several big brands in the e-cigarette industry and are proposing to release their own e-cigarette brands later this year, it is expected that the amount of advertising will increase. E-cigarettes are proving to be a huge,
new, issue that is increasing the tobacco use rate amongst youth.

What are the issues that you see with e-cigarette use in your community and school

My Blogging Experience

This semester for my Fundamentals of Digital Online Media class at Texas State University with Jon Zmikly, I had to create this blog. I initially was concerned with how I would manage a blog on top of everything else that I do. However, I absolutely love my blog and creating it has been a really great experience. In the past I have heard about blogging as a successful way to market yourself and publicize your life but I h
ad never experienced it. Before this blog I had no interest in blogs and never looked at them. Now I see how successful a blog can be at gathering a following and connecting you to your audience. I plan to use what I learned in this class about blogging in my future for everything that I do online. I plan to work in youth advocacy and on online media campaigns, Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 3.06.27 PMI believe that I will use blogging a lot in the future to organize and lead activism initiatives. I currently work for the Texas School Safety Center on their state-wide tobacco prevention initiative, SAY WHAT!, I manage their social media accounts and I plan to incorporate blogging in some way soon. I think that blogging will be more popular amongst young people in the near future as educators utilize blogs for class projects.

Bloopers of My Life

So this post is going to be a little bit out of the usual. I have been making videos recently for different projects and I decided to make a bloopers video out of some of the best moments I have had recently on camera. This is proof that activism can be fun! I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. 🙂 I believe that whenever anyone is making a video, for anything, they should make a bloopers real to show the behind the scenes of what is really happening between those “serious” shots. Videography can be fun and very time consuming so these awesome moments are the ones that keep people filming themselves and they deserve to be shared!