Philadelphia, PA - The members of #RealTalkTobacco from Philadelphia, Pa., have been named Group Youth Advocates of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for their leadership in the fight against tobacco. Tijay Daniels, 18, Harmony Ellerbe, 18, Sydney Grimes, 18, Jada Rasulallah, 17, Jasmine Rasulallah, 18 and Marquita Young, 17, were honored Thursday evening in Washington, D.C.
#RealTalkTobacco wants to make Philadelphia the first city with a youth smoking rate of zero percent. Members of the group, which is part of the Health Promotion Council's Advocacy Institute, have been advocating for tobacco-free pharmacies and a ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, throughout the city. #RealTalkTobacco uses community pop-up events, public service announcements, spoken word poetry and murals to creatively educate their peers about Big Tobacco and advocate for effective policies.
"We are thrilled to honor #RealTalkTobacco as our Group Youth Advocates of the Year," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "These young leaders are standing up to the tobacco industry, inspiring their peers to be tobacco-free and encouraging elected officials to take action. They are helping create the first tobacco-free generation."
Over 400 public health, business, civic and political leaders attended the Youth Advocates of the Year awards ceremony to recognize #RealTalkTobacco and other youth advocates from across the country. The winners received scholarships to continue their tobacco prevention efforts and will serve as youth ambassadors for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 Americans and costing the nation $170 billion in health care bills each year. Tobacco kills 7 million people worldwide each year.
In Pennsylvania, tobacco use claims 22,000 lives and costs $6.4 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 12.9 percent of Pennsylvania's high school students smoke and 24.1 percent use e-cigarettes.