Slaying the Dragon with Policy

Slaying the Dragon with Policy

Quarterly Webinar: Denormalizing Tobacco through Comprehensive School Policy

This blog covers takeaways from our October 14th webinar, which highlighted Comprehensive School Policy as an example of how local policy can be used to combat tobacco.

As members of the Youth Engagement Alliance, each of us must equip young people with the knowledge and skills to fight an industry that spends $9 billion dollars per year marketing their products.  It can feel a little like David v. Goliath.  And like David, we know how to win the fight against tobacco. Science and experience have identified proven, cost-effective strategies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.

October’s YEA webinar highlighted the importance of engaging youth in policy advocacy.  In order to end the tobacco epidemic, youth need to be guided towards a “long haul” vision- one that will create a new normal in their schools and communities where tobacco is no longer desirable, accessible or acceptable.

Our panelists used the importance of implementing tobacco free school policy as a framework for sharing strategies that will engage your youth and adult volunteers in tobacco control.  They provided us with a few take-aways that we can apply to all of our local and state policy efforts.


Do Your Homework.

Collecting valuable information (data) about your problem can convince community members and decision makers about the need to support a tobacco policy. Youth can perform vital tasks like:

  • Researching tobacco industry trends and current marketing tactics
  • Conducting retail surveys
  • Interviewing key stakeholders
  • Creating picture and video documentaries of the current tobacco landscape

Once the initial surveillance activities are complete, youth can work to assimilate this information in a way that is persuasive to your community.

Know Your Audience.

Policy work requires support from a variety of stakeholders.  But, not all stakeholders have the same values or interests.  Know what key audiences you need to win and the types of facts will be most persuasive to them.

Speak with One Voice.

Provide both youth and adult advocates with the training and tools that will empower them to deliver their key messages in a unified voice.

Monitor and Report Your Success.

Once a policy is passed, advocates need to make sure it has the desired outcome.  Youth can participate in monitoring enforcement of policies, troubleshooting any challenges and reporting to decision makers the impact of the policy.  This will also allow youth to offer suggestions for improving any parts of the policy.

Some specific activities to monitor and report policy progress may include:

  • Conducting follow up data collection to demonstrate a policy impact
  • Interviewing key stakeholders, like policy enforcers, to find ways to improve policy
  • Communicating regular monitoring reports to decision makers and the community; this could take the form of public presentations, electronic communication or use of media.
Erica Olmstead's journey with youth advocacy and tobacco control began as a youth advocate in New York with the Reality Check program. Over the past 12 years, she has continuously focused her efforts on empowering youth to advocate against corporate tobacco, first as a youth advocate, later as a Reality Check Program Coordinator and now as a member of the Youth Advocacy team at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids in Washington, DC.

1 Comment

  1. Reggie Cajayon 6 years ago

    Though I wasn’t able to attend the webinar – and Texas is fortunate to have prohibited tobacco on school property since 1995 – I believe that this blog post does an incredible job addressing effective strategies of how to cause community change, regardless of whether it’s schools, local ordinance, company policy, state laws, etc.

    A couple of observations:

    – Both youth and adults need to be reminded of the fact that facilitating organizational/system change is a “long haul” and takes both patience AND hard work.
    – The phrase that really caught my eye is “strategies that will engage your youth and adult volunteers in tobacco control.” I believe that, when engaging youth in policy advocacy, it is critical to remember that doing so is most effective is in partnership with adults. Sometimes that partnership only needs adult supervision. Other times it requires significant involvement. But policy advocacy is MOST effective when youth and adults function as partners and not separately.
    – “Do Your Homework.” is often the most overlooked step when pursuing organizational change. Assessing readiness, identifying and building relationships with key stakeholders and decision makers, and also doing some of the “soft” work of storytelling.

    Great job, Laura! And here’s to the next YEA webinar!!!

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