350+ California Teens Rally at State Capitol Against the Tobacco Industry

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—More than 350 youth from throughout California gathered on the West steps of the state Capitol Monday, to shed light on the tobacco industry’s negative impact on youth during the California Youth Advocacy Network’s 25th annual Youth Quest.

Youth advocates Tanya Signh, Lauryn Sumimoto, Amre Abumarkhieh and Harleen Kaur were the featured speakers at the Youth Quest press conference and event. 

“We often think of tobacco use as a health issue but it’s also a social justice issue,” said Singh, a member of CYAN’s youth board of directors from San Joaquin County. “Big Tobacco’s predatory tactics perpetuate and leverage injustice and worsen the health disparities already experienced by the communities they target, particularly youth, communities of color, LGBTQ+ communities and individuals struggling with their mental health. We’re here today to shine the light and educate our decision makers on how they can promote health equity and join us on ending the burden of tobacco products in our State and restore our communities.” 

Youth Quest is an event that celebrates the accomplishments of youth engagement in local tobacco prevention work. This year, California teens gathered at the Capitol to educate the public and state decision makers on health disparities driven by the tobacco industry. Ignacio Burgos, CYAN’s youth program coordinator, helped organize Monday’s event.

“Now has become an important time in the history of our state and nation for youth advocates to speak up about issues affecting their lives,” said Burgos. “Youth across California understand tobacco’s harmful effects on their peers, families, communities, and overall health and well-being. They are enthusiastic and committed to changing this reality in our state and country.”

CYAN operates under the fiscal sponsorship of Heluna Health. Heluna Health is a leader in public and population health, empowering academic researchers, public-private consortia, public health agencies and nonprofits to achieve positive health outcomes in the communities they serve.

California’s history in tobacco prevention began in 1988, when voters passed Proposition 99, the Tobacco Tax and Health Protection Act. Youth advocates in California continue to be a strong voice for tobacco issues that affect their peers and their communities.

California has made important strides to address tobacco-related death and disease; however, significant industry-driven health disparities continue to persist:

  • The tobacco industry continues to release new, youth-friendly tobacco products with high levels of nicotine in an attempt to bypass local and state laws and addict a new generation of users.
  • The tobacco industry has historically marketed to people with mental health conditions by promoting products as a way to improve a person’s mood or to provide relief from stress, anxiety and depression.
  • According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, use of any tobacco products was highest among students who identified as LGBT and among those reporting psychological distress.

Youth Quest is sponsored by CYAN, which is dedicated to supporting youth, college and young adult advocacy in tobacco prevention throughout California. CYAN is a project of Heluna Health, funded by Proposition 99 and 56 through the California Department of Public Health – Tobacco Prevent Program.