Youth can be the most effective advocates for anti-tobacco measures. Tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence. According to the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) Youth and Tobacco Use Fact Sheet, 90% of smokers begin before they are 18 years of age. Each day in the United States, more than 3,200 youth aged 18 years or younger smoke their first cigarette, and an additional 2,100 youth and young adults become daily cigarette smokers. Youth are not desensitized to the impact that tobacco has on important adults in their lives. Youth-led engagement, when supported by community engagement strategies, is an evidence-based way to move tobacco policy initiatives forward.
A recent example of a successful youth engagement campaign are OVX groups providing their stories and local data at the state legislature. In 2019 three OVX groups testified in front of committees, answering questions about vaping, flavors and tobacco use in their school community. Over the past years youth have been involved in educating on the dangers of exposure from smoking in cars, the thousands of flavors available in vaping products and the concerning rise of electronic vapor products in local schools. In 2019, the Vermont State Legislature passed three prevention bills to increase the age to purchase to 21, restrict online purchasing of e-cigarettes and establish a first-ever tax on e-cigarettes and price parity among tobacco products in Vermont. garettes. On July 1, 2016, Act 108 was passed, making Vermont became the ninth state to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes (defined as tobacco substitutes in Vermont) in the same manner and in the same locations as lighted tobacco products
The collaboration between Agency of Education and the Vermont Department of Health turns the curve by providing funding to youth groups along with training and technical assistance. This includes providing guidance on how to run effective youth groups, distributing information to motivate and inform coalition leaders, and connecting youth groups with opportunities to talk with decision makers or the media.
Counter marketing is a best practice area in tobacco control. Over the last several years, tobacco control efforts have begun to address the impact of point-of-sale, which combines restriction and reduction of advertising and youth access. This area of work is designed to counteract the retail environment, which research finds is more influential on youth smoking than peer pressure.