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San Diego Youth Take on Big Tobacco

Post Date:10/12/2023 3:16 PM

 3x1 banner Tobacco-Free Coalition of San Diego County

Tobacco-Free Coalition of San Diego County Co-Chairs Chelsea Walczak-Vircks, American Heart Association, and Alexandra Swift, San Diego County Office of Education


Five youth groups dedicated to ending the pull of Big Tobacco on their peers were rcognized for their efforts in August by the Tobacco-Free Coalition of San Diego County at its Youth Advocates of the Year event.

Hailing from throughout San Diego County, the youth are working to address the epidemic of vaping and smoking brought on by easy access to the products, tobacco marketing and peer pressure.


"I am passionate about this issue because I have a younger brother who I would hate to see become addicted," said Galia Cortes, a member of the group Change Comes with Support.


The youth worked on a wide array of strategies including collecting cigarette butts during beach cleanups, taking stock of the myriad products sold by tobacco retailers, meeting with city council members and providing public comment at council meetings, attending conferences, going to trainings and community events, posting educational messages on social media, developing an educational billboard, and distributing advocacy postcards. Some even educated and supported their peers by forming smoking-cessation support groups to help them end their nicotine addiction.

The five Tobacco-Free Coalition youth groups that received honors are:

“With the media portraying vaping as “cool” and a social activity, it is no surprise that addiction happens before our eyes, but to Big Tobacco we’re just revenue,” said Darby Reif of the La Jolla Tribal Youth Tobacco Coalition. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been educated about the harmful effects of nicotine and tobacco products so I can make the choice not to partake before I’m peer-pressured or curious.”

Onward to a Tobacco-Free Generation

After giving their presentations, the youths received Certificates of Recognition from Tobacco-Free Coalition Co-Chairs Alex Swift with the San Diego County Office of Education, and Chelsea Walczak Vircks, with the American Heart Association

San Diego City Council Member Joe LaCava also presented awards. He told the group:


 "When young people get involved, they know the pressures their peers face and can speak the language. Thank you to the young leaders for devoting personal time and paving the way toward a tobacco-free San Diego."


The youth groups are now moving on, working to achieve the goal of realizing the first tobacco-free generation in over 120 years. If you are interested in joining the Tobacco-Free Coalition’s efforts -- such as working toward smoke-free multiunit housing, smoke-free outdoor public places, tobacco retailer licensing, or cessation -- contact the program at

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