She promises it’s not for the publicity or to glamorize her college essay, and when you hear Lisa Lu speak about her passionate project, she simply must be believed.
Lu, a junior at San Marino High School, is the founder and president of International Youth Tobacco Control (IYTC), a non-profit organization she started in 2017 that is comprised of 200 high schoolers in the United States, Canada, China, Korea, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. More than 40 middle and high schoolers in the San Marino area have contributed to the group’s main objective, which is to prevent teenage smoking on a global level.
“I have just seen too many young people smoking,” Lu said bluntly. “You would think that in this current age when we know the dangers of smoking it wouldn’t be so prevalent among young people, but it still is.”
Lu has found some creative ways to spread her message. Her group has met with Dr. Dayi Hu, chairman of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, who has submitted a legislation proposal to the Chinese authorities to establish legal smoking age and implement stricter age verification for purchases. She has collaborated with Gay Yuen, a professor at California State, Los Angeles, to initiate “No Tobacco” weeks and educational activities to spread awareness to over 3,000 students and parents.
She has worked with Jono Polansky, a consultant at the University of San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Research, and have targeted on-screen smoking, starting with Disney’s purchase of 140 “smoke-contaminated” movies that were acquired through its purchase of FOX media. Lu is also collaborating with Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, to introduce e-cigarette education in schools.
In late March, Lu spoke to the California State Assembly on behalf of IYTC at the press conference for Senate Bill SB 38, which would ban the retail sale of flavored tobacco products in California.
She also provided the lead testimony at the hearing for SB39, which would require stricter age verification for online tobacco purchases. Other students testifying were Seojin Choi and Aristotle Zeng of SMHS, Joyney Lu of Huntington Middle School, Cathy Sun of Temple City High School and Franklin Cheng of La Salle High School. Senator Anthony Portantino, who represents San Marino, welcomed Lu and her cohorts into Senate chambers with the title “San Gabriel Valley Student Advocates.” Both bills were passed.
But the journey has also traveled through hostile territory. Lu and IYTC have faced heavy opposition from e-cigarette and vaping companies, consumers, lawyers, and even doctors. “But our relentless efforts convinced the committee to pass both bills,” Lu said. “This experience showed the members and I how powerful our enemy is and evoked our passion to advance our mission.”
Every teen deserves a healthy life,” she concluded.
Which which happens to be the mission statement of her group.