Youth Engagement in Change: From the Summit on the 50th Anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Tobacco Report

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50 years ago, US Surgeon General Luther L. Terry wrote the first Surgeon General’s report linking smoking to cancer.

Read Surgeon General Terry’s Report Here: http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/retrieve/Narrative/NN/p-nid/60

1069157_618847054837883_504654682_nIn honor of the historic 50 year milestone there was a summit held in New Orleans, Louisiana last week that was broadcasted live on the internet for people to view all around the world. The summit was a series of panel discussions featuring some of the leaders in the fight against big tobacco, including all living former US Surgeon Generals. I had the honor of being on the youth panel at the event that highlighted the importance of youth in promoting change in tobacco prevention initiatives and discussing the new FDA youth campaign The Real Cost that will soon be featured around the country and will directly target youth 12-17 and CVS’ decision to remove tobacco products from all of their stores. Overall the event was really amazing because of the people that were a part of it, but the best, and most rewarding, part was being able to tell the world that youth are the leaders of the change that we are seeing in society today.  

Whether or not the “adult world” wants to realize it, youth are the professionals in this generation. We have mastered the art of social media and we use it more than anyone else to spread our message and promote change that we support. If you want to successfully promote change then connect with a young person and give them the resources that they need to effectively use their voice in society. For a lot of adults that work in social change work this can be very scary because their job is on the line and they are trusting a young person. However, if adults would show young people that they trust them to do their work then they will do it with passion and the adult will find that giving a young person their voice in society is more rewarding than any amount of money. The truth is that young people listen to their peers in society more than they listen to adults. So why not recruit youth to lead change in society?

If you work in any form of activism then I would prompt you to include youth in all of your efforts and teach them how to do use their voice to promote change and lead the change. Also, please take some time to watch the summit (it is an entire days event so watching all of it at once is rather unreasonable but each panel is 30 minutes – 1 hour long and I have mentioned them below, in order, with a brief summary of the discussion topics) and pass it along to your colleagues.

There were six other panels at the event and they were all very informative about the current state of tobacco control. The entire summit is still online and can be viewed at: http://tobaccosummit.com/live.html

First panel: Conversations with U.S. Surgeons General – Reviewing the impact of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, reflecting on efforts of Surgeons Generals since the groundbreaking report and discussing where do we go from here to have a tobacco-free generations.
Second panel: Next Tobacco-Free Generation – Young anti-tobacco leaders have a conversation about what they are doing to reach a tobacco-free generation with examples of campaigns that work and new public service announcements directed to young people.
Third panel: Sons of Our Father – The sons of Dr. Luther Terry an Dr. Alton Ochsner, two pioneers against smoking and the hazards of tobacco use, reflect on the life and legacy of their fathers.
Fourth panel: Litigation, Legislation or Regulation – What impact on public health has litigation, legislation and regulations had and will have.
Fifth panel: Media and the Tobacco-Free Generation – A discussion on media’s role and its influence on young people in the past, present and future.
Sixth panel: Marketing and New Products – Defy students from Lake Charles, Louisiana, will perform a skit centered around how tobacco is marketed to youth and what they plan to do about it.
Seventh panel: What’s Working – An overview of efforts that have succeeded in increasing awareness about tobacco’s harm to individual health and why prevention works.

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