HomeSchools & YouthStudent Group Continues Fight Against Underage Tobacco Use

Student Group Continues Fight Against Underage Tobacco Use

HOPEFULLY SMOKE FREE: Five San Marino students spoke out against tobacco use at Tuesday’s meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Left to right, are Alina Champon, Lisa Lu, Victor Lu, Los Angeles County 5th District Supervisor and San Marino High School graduate and resident Kathryn Barger, Kimia Hassibi and Franklin Cheng.

It has been a busy month for a group of local students who have escalated their campaign against underage smoking and “vaping,” the use of e-cigarettes. International Youth Tobacco Control, or IYTC, held an event in the Barth Community Room of San Marino’s Crowell Public Library on Wednesday, September 18 called “Be Smart; Don’t Start.”

Created by San Marino High School senior Lisa Lu, IYTC is a student-run, nonprofit organization consisting of over 200 members in Canada, China, Pakistan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United States that works to prevent underage tobacco usage through educational activities and legislative reform. Both methods were on display the past two weeks.

“The goal of the event last Wednesday was to inform elementary and middle school students about the harms of tobacco products,” the group said in a letter to The Tribune. “As a result, when they are confronted with these drugs in the real world, they will make educated decisions against using them.”

Approximately thirty students and many of their parents attended the event, where IYTC members led the students in a series of fun, yet educational games.

To kick off the meeting, IYTC members gave a survey to the students and parents which asked them how much they already knew about tobacco products. After gauging everyone’s prior knowledge, the members made a presentation on the chemicals that are found inside of vapes and cigarettes, on the harms they do to your body, and on how today’s youth are targeted by tobacco retailers. Afterwards, there was a mock-Jeopardy game to instill the information in a fun and interactive message. Finally, all the kids, aware of the consequences of smoking and vaping, made a pledge to remain tobacco-free.

“‘Be Smart; Don’t Start’ has helped kids to truly understand what is in cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and I believe they will stay away from tobacco products in the future because of what they have learned,” said Alina Champon, a sophomore at San Marino High School.

The audience was much different this past Tuesday, when five members of IYTC made a presentation at a meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The group spoke on behalf of L.A. Families Fighting Flavored Tobacco.

“We were speaking in support of a ban on flavored tobacco products in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County,” Lu told The Tribune. “We were called ‘pawns’ by some who were protesting against the ban and and were told to ‘go back to school.’ But I felt like the supervisors really listened to the young people who spoke.”

One Supervisor even reached out to The Tribune in support of IYTC.

“I was proud to join with students from San Marino who testified today at our Board of Supervisors meeting to advocate with L.A. Families Fighting Flavored Tobacco,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who graduated from San Marino High School. “I appreciated their eloquent and effective arguments supporting their important cause.”

Lu told The Tribune that she created the group while on summer vacation in 2018 after seeing what she felt were too many young people using tobacco products.

“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.”

In late March of this year, 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. 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.


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