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Achieving Health Equity: Toward a Commercial Tobacco-Free California, 2021-2022

Objective 4: Prevent youth and young adults from initiating tobacco use and empower them as advocates for tobacco and cannabis control

The tobacco industry has a long history of targeting young people, knowing that those who become addicted when young often become customers for life.48,49 Accordingly, one of the most basic challenges in tobacco control is to prevent initiation among youth and young adults. The industry employs predatory marketing tactics such as placing ads at children's eye level in convenience stores and placing tobacco products near candy.50 It continually develops novel products, many of which have kid-friendly names, flavors, and designs, that are influential with youth.7 Many of these products now make it easier than ever for young people to use tobacco, even in school settings.8 Continued vigilance is needed, especially among priority populations, and increased focus on tobacco control is needed in schools. Schools, colleges, and universities must adapt and find new ways to ensure that all young people receive effective tobacco prevention education and that those who use tobacco receive culturally appropriate help to quit.


Experience has shown that young people play important roles in countering the tobacco industry and help to feed a pipeline of future public health advocates and researchers with impactful roles in tobacco and cannabis control.

Display of Tobacco products rin a retail store


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Young people participating in Youth Quest 2019. For over 20 years, the California Youth Advocacy Network (CYAN), a statewide project funded by CTCP, has coordinated Youth Quest, an information and education event for teen advocates. Each year, over 300 youth from across California travel to Sacramento to learn together and prepare for meetings with state decision makers. Participants receive training on a current tobacco issue, then march to the Capitol and hold a rally and press conference to highlight how tobacco impacts youth and young adults. Following these events, participants and their adult partners educate California Assemblymembers and Senators on their community-based interventions. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, CYAN held a virtual event.

Youths of Youth Quest standing in front of the California Capitol displaying Anti-Tobacco Banners

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7. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Flavored Tobacco Products Attract Kids.  September 2020.

8. Selekman J. Vaping: It's all a smokescreen. Pediatric Nursing. 2019;45(1):12-15, 35.

48. Bates C, Rowell A. Tobacco Explained...The truth about the tobacco its own words. UCSF: Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education;2004.

49. California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program. Kids are big tobacco's "replacement" customers. 2020; ( Accessed December 30, 2020.

50. Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Public Health Division. Flavored Tobacco: Sweet, Cheap, and Within Kids' Reach. CD Summary; October 29, 2014. Vol. 63, No. 21.

51. California Health and Safety Code, §104559.

52. California Department of Education. Tobacco-Free School District Certification FAQs.  (,district%20vehicles%20at%20all%20times). Accessed October 4, 2020.

53. California Department of Education. Comprehensive Tobacco-Free School Policy Toolkit: Tools and Resources for California Schools.  May 25 2017.

54. CA Tobacco Free Colleges. Search Policy Database.  ( Accessed Accessed October 7, 2020.

55. Truth Initiative. Flavors.  January 2018.

56. Public Health Law Center. Online Sales of E-cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products. 2019.

57. ChangeLab Solutions. PUP in smoke: why youth tobacco possession and use penalties are ineffective and inequitable.  April 2019.

58. California Youth Advocacy Network. CYAN youth program. 2018; ( Accessed December 30, 2020.

59. Stanford Medicine. Tobacco Prevention Toolkit.(

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