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community and youth engagement

To achieve a generation free of tobacco, we empower individuals, coalitions and organizations to take action in their communities. We are committed to achieving tobacco-related health equity across all ethnicities, incomes, geographies and lifestyles. To meet that commitment we train, cultivate and inspire future leaders who can help us counter tobacco’s influence within those communities. And we partner with community-serving organizations to give everyone in the country the chance at a tobacco-free life.

Youth Activism

We believe that engaging youth is critical to the success of the tobacco-control movement. Our youth activism programs and resources empower and develop the next generation of youth and young adult tobacco-control leaders through trainings, fellowships and communities of leadership.

The National Summit on Youth Activism

The Summit is an intensive weeklong summer training program for up to 100 high school students. Youth and young adults are recruited to attend from local community serving organizations. At the Summit they learn about effective activism strategies, approaches to community engagement, traditional and new media outreach, and organizing through the lens of social justice. Each participant commits to train at least 100 of his or her peers within the next 12 months supported by Truth Initiative representatives who offer ongoing training and assistance.

The Youth Activism Fellowship

Our Fellowship is a 12-month leadership development and community activism program for 18-to 24-year-olds. Fellows learn from nationally recognized public health leaders and connect with other dynamic young adults from around the nation. Training is provided on tobacco-related health equity, regulatory policy, and media advocacy and communications. Each Fellow works with a Truth Initiative staff member to develop and execute a tobacco-control project in his or her community that documents the impact of the project along the way.

Youth Engagement Alliance for Tobacco Control

The Youth Engagement Alliance for Tobacco Control (YEA) is a network of tobacco-control advocates focused on engaging youth. YEA is co-directed by Truth Initiative and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The alliance provides training and resources to adults who work with youth and young adults in tobacco control. Every two years a national event known as Coordinator Camp offers participants additional in-person training and the opportunity to connect with others in the nationwide network.

Becoming an Activist

As long as tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., we will need more youth and young adults to serve as powerful tobacco-control advocates. We’ve developed a toolkit help any young person who wants to become an activist.

Community Engagement

Tobacco use in the U.S. is demonstrably higher within certain ethnic, income, geographic and other identity groups. Our work won’t be done until all communities have the opportunity to lead a tobacco-free life. We work with organizations, institutions and leaders who serve diverse audiences to advocate for and achieve tobacco-related health equity.

Colleges and Universities

The number of college and universities with 100 percent smoke- or tobacco-free policies tripled from 446 campuses in 2010 to 1,577 campuses in 2015. That matters because 99 percent of smokers start before age 27. In 2012 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched a nationwide Tobacco Free Campus Initiative aimed at the academic institutions where young adults live, learn and work. To support this initiative and achieve greater health equity, our efforts focus on community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

With enrollment of 13 million students, community colleges serve as a gateway to postsecondary education for many people of color, low-income and first-generation college students. Many of these populations suffer disproportionately from tobacco use and its secondhand smoke consequences. Our competitive grant program offers awards up to $5,000 to public community colleges across the country to help them advocate for, adopt, and implement smoke-free or tobacco-free policies.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) serve another population that suffers disproportionately from smoking-related illness. Of the 105 federally recognized HBCUs, presently one-third have comprehensive smoke-free or tobacco-free policies. As part of a collaborative project led by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, we have joined with other organizations to provide grant awards up to $5,000 each to HBCUs across the country. These grants support HBCU’s efforts to advocate for, adopt, and implement smoke-free or tobacco-free policies. Our goal is for 40 additional HBCUs adopt smoke-free or tobacco-free policies by December 2017.

Head Start

Head Start programs serve more than one million low-income children up to age five each year. Smoking prevalence rates are higher among low-income families and those with less formal education, which makes Head Start and Early Head Start programs an important avenue for reaching children and their family members who are vulnerable to tobacco use.

We’ve partnered with Head Start and Early Head Start programs in 16 states and two U.S. territories to integrate tobacco cessation and secondhand smoke information into their programs. This includes training for program staff to teach them the basics about tobacco addiction, introduce tobacco intervention skills, and make them aware of local and state-level tobacco cessation resources.

In addition, we’ve worked with these Head Start and Early Head Start professionals to create service delivery protocols to identify, refer, track and support family members who are tobacco users. We’ve shared that knowledge and experience with federal policy makers to support the adoption of national standards that can be used across Head Start and Early Head Start sites to help parents and caregivers quit and stay quit.