A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKY’s Abigail Bruns among students named Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Ambassadors

Two Kentucky students have been named National Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for demonstrating leadership in fighting tobacco use in their communities.

These young leaders were among 133 youth and young adults from 33 states who participated in the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Digital Advocacy Symposium, a five-day online training session focused on building advocacy, communications and leadership skills.

The Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors from Kentucky include:

Abigail Bruns

• Abigail Bruns, 20, of Lakeside Park is a student at the University of Dayton. She has been involved in tobacco control and prevention work for one year. She became inspired to get involved as an Ambassador because of the vaping she’s seen in her own community and her ambitions of pursuing a career in government and policymaking.

• Kendall Robinson, 14, is from Harrodsburg and a high school sophomore. He has been involved in tobacco control and prevention for four years, including with his local group TATU. As an Ambassador, Robinson hopes to gain the skills to take on the tobacco and vaping industry’s harmful tactics towards youth and educate his community.

The Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors will work with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to advocate for effective policies to reduce youth tobacco use at the federal, state, and local levels. These policies include ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes that are addicting a new generation of kids.

“We are thrilled to welcome this new class of Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors, whose passion and leadership will help us create the first tobacco-free generation,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Young people are critical voices in the fight against tobacco because they speak from experience about how they are targeted by the tobacco industry. Policymakers should listen and support strong policies to protect our kids, including a prohibition on all flavored tobacco products.”

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While the United States has greatly reduced youth smoking, use of e-cigarettes among young people has skyrocketed in recent years. From 2017 to 2019, e-cigarette use more than doubled among high school students (to 27.5 percent) and tripled among middle school students (to 10.5 percent), according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. More than 5.3 million kids used e-cigarettes 2019 – an increase of more than 3 million in two years. Sweet flavors like gummy bear, mint and mango have fueled the popularity of e-cigarettes among kids.

Other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, are also popular among youth. The tobacco industry has a long history of targeting kids, Black Americans and other groups with marketing for menthol cigarettes and other flavored products, with devastating consequences. More than half of all youth smokers today – including seven out of ten Black youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing approximately 480,000 people and costing about $170 billion in health care bills each year.

In Kentucky, 8.9 percent of high school students smoke traditional cigarettes, while 26.1 percent use e-cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 8,900 lives in Kentucky each year.

The Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors were selected through a competitive application process and participated in the Digital Advocacy Symposium to become powerful advocates for change. In addition to gaining advocacy and communications skills, these young leaders learned about how tobacco use is a social justice issue because of tobacco-related health disparities due to the tobacco industry’s longtime targeting of minority populations.

From Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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