Tobacco and 5 more...less...

VDH Strategic Plan

Tobacco in schools


Tobacco Cessation Community Coalition

Tobacco Control Program (PPMB)

% of youth groups that educate local or state decisionmakers on smoke free policy and retailer tobacco advertising restrictions


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Story Behind the Curve

Last Updated: February 2020

Author: Tobacco Control Program, Vermont Department of Health

Youth empowerment and engagement around tobacco is an identified method for preventing tobacco initiation and lowering use. National organizations including Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids monitor the burden and progress youth, advocates and state programs are making in reducing tobacco’s impact. The Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Education fund two youth tobacco prevention groups – Our Voices Xposed (OVX) in high schools and Vermont Kids Against Tobacco (VKAT) in middle schools.  The Tobacco Control Program and Agency of Education worked on a Memo of Understanding to share in a collaborative effort to fund, train and support the youth tobacco prevention groups. In Fiscal Year 2020, the Agency of Education is funding 17 supervisory unions to host VKAT and OVX groups, which have been a part of tobacco control and prevention in Vermont for many years.

OVX, which also has a Facebook page, and VKAT educate peers and their community about the impact tobacco has on Vermont youth. The groups hold events inside schools and outside in the community to raise awareness on the actions decision makers can take to reduce the toll of tobacco. Evidence-based strategies that communities can enact include passing smoke-free policies at local parks and playgrounds, which reduce secondhand smoke exposure and create positive social norms around tobacco use, and changing the tobacco retail environment, where exposure to product and advertising causes youth tobacco use initiation.

Whether youth coalitions successfully educate decision makers depends on:

  • Grant support from state partners like Agency of Education and training and materials from the Department of Health
  • Motivation and passion among youth coalition members
  • Community support for their activities, including in schools
  • Understanding of tobacco issues among local decision makers

  • Youth Groups: OVX and VKAT youth are the central change agents for this activity.
  • Community Grantees: Grantees support OVX and VKAT youth by connecting them to local and statewide policy initiatives, providing them with the resources they need to communicate to decision makers, and creating opportunities for education around the diverse issues surrounding tobacco prevalence in Vermont.
  • Local decision makers, e.g. select boards, boards of trustees, town officers: Local decision makers are the audience for OVX and VKAT education and invite youth to participate in the policy process.
  • Vermont Agency of Education: The Vermont Agency of Education also funds school-based tobacco prevention activities, and some Local Education Agencies choose to work on youth empowerment and community mobilization.
  • Rescue: the media and youth engagement contractor of the VTCP . Rescue specializes in peer crowd segmentation, behavior change and addressing tobacco use among youth and young adults.

What Works

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.


Action Plan
    • The Vermont Tobacco Control and Prevention Program will continue to partner with the Agency of Education to fund OVX and VKAT groups. OVX and VKAT groups are active from September through May of each school year.
    • The annual Youth Rally at the Vermont statehouse is February 11 and will seek to educate legislators on current products, flavors and youth use.
    • The Tobacco Control Program's CounterBalance campaign continues to provide education and engagement materials for parents, community and youth. 
    • The youth groups are submitting Photo Voice products depicting issues important to Vermont's youth. Awards will be announced to winner's of this year's Photo Voice project on World No Tobacco Day 2020. For more information, contact
Why Is This Important?

Together these performance measures focus on whether Vermonters are better off as a result of Health Department's Tobacco Control Program. They do so by looking at the quality and efficiency of these programs and services. This performance measure is important because it measures HOW MUCH the program is doing in terms of youth prevention and the amount of program effort.

Scorecard Result Container Indicator Measure Action Actual Value Target Value Tag S R I P PM A m/d/yy m/d/yyyy