activism

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! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peers-Against-Tobacco https://twitter.com/PeersAgainstTob http://instagram.com/peersagainsttobacco.
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! skinner28d@gmail.com

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

Lets make change happen in 2015!

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Child Workers on AMERICAN Tobacco Farms

 

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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

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!

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Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 12.03.38 PMFrom March 21 to March 23 I had the opportunity to go to Nevada to work with the youth of their state initiative at their state conference. I attended this conference with Ritney Castine from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids; we were invited to participate at the conference as guest presenters. We taught the youth at the conference how to be leaders in their schools and communities and how to get their peers engaged in tobacco prevention. I really enjoyed how this conference was set up because during the day there were activities and presentations then in the afternoon and evening we all went to the park and the movies. *We watched Divergent, It was a really great movie and I would recommend it.*

I worked with the youth on social media engagement and I showed them how to create social media campaigns. I was really surprised to learn that most of Nevada does not have access to the internet so the youth there are not very engaged online. This was an obstacle for me as I planned my presentation. So, I improvised by showing them how to use what they could and I worked with their sponsors to set up blogs that their youth can write up posts for and then have their sponsors post for them. I, afterlighthonestly, assumed that everyone had access to the internet and that all young people were on social media. When I found out that most of Nevada’s youth do not even have access to the internet I was very surprised and it made me realize a lo of things about my plans for the future and how I plan on working in social change work.
Overall, I had a really great experience at this conference and I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to work with theseamazing young leaders. Nevada is a very beautiful state and I look forward to my next chance to visit. When I left they gave me a shirt that everyone had signed and a cup with a picture of the whole group. I really love doing this work and I am excited to see where it will take me in the future

Kick Butts Day 2014!!!

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Happy Kick Butts Day!!!

Today is one of my favorite days of the year, it is Kick Butts Day or Texas Tobacco Free Kids Day here in the state! Kick Butts Day is a day that is dedicated to tobacco prevention groups doing events simultaneously all around the world. Here in the State we have adapted this day into Texas Tobacco Free Kids Day so that it is recognized as a state wide event for tobacco prevention with the Say What! groups. Kick Butts Day (#KBD) is organized by The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and this year for #KBD they are having people show their support of CVS’ decision to stop selling all tobacco products by the end of the year. They are asking supporters of CVS to pose with a flyer in front of a CVS store, take a picture and post it online with #StandWithCVS.

CVS announced last month that they will stop selling all tobacco products by October 1st of this year. This decision comes with the companies recent changes and plans for their company in the near future. CVS is now CVS Caremark and they plan to be a health care provider! They agree that tobacco has no place in a pharmacy, or health store. Congrats to CVS for doing what is morally right to care for their customers! Hopefully, other national pharmacies will follow CVS and prove that their customers are valued.

I find it extremely ironic that Walgreeens’ motto is “At the Corner of Happy & Healthy” but literally in the corner of their store is tobacco products. Come on Walgreens follow CVS and do what we all know is right!

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Get Involved! and follow all of the events that are happening:

#KBD, #TTFKD & #StandWithCVS

Toms New One for One

During South by South West (SXSW) last week in Austin; Toms, the company known for their One for One initiative, announced their new giving project. They are now selling coffee and giving water to an individual in a third world country that the coffee came from! For every bag of coffee bought on their website they promise to give a person water for one week.

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The coolest part of what Toms is doing is that they are opening coffee shops and the first one is here in Austin on South Congress near Hopdddy and Home Slice Pizza!  It is so well designed and reflects the values of the company. The coffee shop is also a store where they are selling their shoes, glasses and other products from other companies they support.

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 In the shop they sell the coffee and     serve it like a normal coffee shop, each cup of coffee gives water to a person for one day. They have another coffee shop in Venice, California at their flagship store and they plan to open stores all across the country.

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It is exciting to think that we may soon see a Toms Roasting Co. Shop on every corner, like starbucks, and we can change the world by simply drinking coffee.

Again Toms has remind us  that it is possible for all of us to make a difference!

Buy Toms Coffee Here

Electronic Cigarettes – Seeing through the vape screen.

So in the activism world there has been a lot of focus on Electronic Vaping Devices for the last year because of how fast their popularity has grown amongst young people. They are literally everywhere now and last year they were limited to being purchased online for a hefty price. When the industry released the idea of “vaping” there was talk about how these new products were going to be a faster way for people to get addicted to nicotine and transition into a tobacco addiction. However, today that is not the case; young people are purchasing these products because of their aesthetic appeal, low price, flavoring, promise of a healthy alternative to tobacco, a right to freedom by using them everywhere without restricting smoke free laws and the liberty to decide the amount of nicotine in their device.

These products are a huge concern because they are not regulated and they are available to young people. Not to mention that nicotine delivery devices are being marketed the exact same way that tobacco was in the 50’s and 60’s. The tobacco industry is up to its old tricks and props to them for finding this big loophole in the policies that have controlled their actions in the past.

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For example: the industry has always been known for their advertising and aesthetic appeal that they have used to market their products. These new products are no different and with the incorporation of technology there is no limit to what they will come up with. Pictured on the left is the latest e-cig on the market that features bluetooth technology to connect to the users cell phone and play music, obviously targeting a young audience.

The industry is known for selling their products at a cheap price to appeal to a younger audience and fighting tax increases, as these products become more popular they are also becoming cheaper and more accessible to youth. Most young people that are getting access to these vaping devices are using the internet because there is no way to confirm that they are 18.

So, by now you are probably wondering why nicotine is such a big issue if it is not tobacco. Well, nicotine is the addictive component of tobacco that is also proven to be harmful on the heart and cause cancer. Honestly, we all know that tobacco is bad and, with increased regulations on the industry that are being implemented by legislature, every year less and less people are using tobacco products. With these new nicotine delivery devices there is no regulation and the number of people using and getting addicted to nicotine is on a steady rise, which means that the number of people affected by the health effects from nicotine is also on a rise. The biggest question that I have about these new devices is: “What will happen long term?” The answer is that no one knows because of how new vaping devices are.

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Recently the government, through FDA regulation, made all flavoring in tobacco products (except menthol) illegal because it appealed to youth. Since these new products are not tobacco products and are not regulated they do containflavoring and youth are highly attracted to the varieties that they canchoose from. Yet another way the industry is doing the exact same thing that they have done in the past.

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Before the world understood how bad tobacco is the industry promoted the idea that their products were healthy and that they were endorsed by doctors. Everyone believed that tobacco was a medicine and that it would lead to a long prosperous life. This mentality did not change until US Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry released the first Surgeon Generals Report linking tobacco use to cancer 50 years ago. So 50 years later what have we learned? Obviously not a lot because they are marketing these new products as a health device, as healthier than tobacco and even as cessation devices, they are getting endorsed by doctors who use them in their practice to help people “quit” tobacco and use only nicotine because its “healthy”. Seriously, why should we believe them? There is no definitive proof that these products are safer or healthier like they are marketing them to be.

As well, the industry markets these products as a way for us to take back our rights and liberties that have been taken away by smoke-free indoor air laws, which were enacted to secure the health and lives of millions of people. The industry does not care about your liberties or rights because they knowingly take away your right to life by selling and marketing a product that when used as directed kills. Even worse is that they want their users addiction to affect everyone around them. No one was born a smoker, it is something that is learned and taught by the industry, so there for it is not someones right to smoke. As far as second hand vapor being safer than second hand smoke, there is no evidence to prove that it is safer, it is easy to assume that it is by the nature of the vapor compared to smoke, but there is  now proven health risks with being exposed to second hand nicotine vapor from an E-Cig. Dr. Valerie Yerger from the Center for Tobacco Control Research & Education at UCSF said that through recent research they have found “fiberglass and particulates in the vapor”. There has also been a recent study done by UCSF for the World Health Organization on Electronic Cigarettes that highlights the findings from these recent studies. Link to study: http://arizonansconcernedaboutsmoking.com/201312e-cig_report.pdf

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And lastly, the advertising of these new products is appalling to say the least. They have zero regulation when it comes to what they can do to reach youth and get them using these products. The ads for E-Cigs are everywhere! six flags, malls, grocery/convenience/gas station stores, TV, Radio, Online, Social Media, Video Games, Magazines, News Papers, Sporting Events, etc. Literally they are everywhere that it is illegal for the industry to put tobacco ads, because they know that these key ad spots are where youth are most likely to see them. They glorify this idea of vaping and use celebrities to endorse their products. The celebrities don’t even have to be in an E-Cig commercial, they can just be vaping in the audience during the Grammys or VMAs and everyone will know about it. This industry is not stupid, they know what they are doing and they are the experts at manipulating youth into buying their deadly products.

In conclusion, the industry has found a way to change the game with tobacco use and we, as activists, need to fight back against these new products by continuing to progress legislation that restricts the advertising and sale of these products to minors as well as regulates them like tobacco is now being regulated by the FDA. We have to be the first people to get to the youth when it comes to educating them about these products so that they don’t hear the rumored “benefits” from using these products compared to tobacco. This is still a drug like tobacco, it is still addictive and it still kills people.

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.