From: [email protected]
Date: July 17, 2003

Dear Safe Schools Coalition members and friends,

NYAC Convenes First National Council to Address Smoking Among LGBTQ Youth


Washington, DC - The National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC) officially announced today the formation of its Tobacco Control and Prevention Youth Advisory Council. The Council is the only one of its kind bringing together youth from across the country to address the issues of tobacco prevention and cessation in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth community.

Smoking rates for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth (there is no data on transgender youth) are almost twice as high as their straight peers. Estimated rates for LGB youth range from 38% to 59%. National smoking rates during the comparable periods range from 28% to 35% for heterosexual youth.
These high numbers are indicative of societal pressure, lack of effective prevention and cessation efforts, and the prior aggressive marketing to youth by "Big Tobacco" companies. Tobacco use among LGBTQ youth is not only an important health issue, but also an important social justice issue, since the tobacco industry specifically markets to communities of color and the LGB community.
With grant funding from the American Legacy Foundation, NYAC has created a tobacco prevention and cessation program called FREE (Friends, for Real, Educating and Empowering). It symbolizes and embodies messages like FREE to be yourself, FREE to express who you love, FREE to make healthy choices, FREE from fear, stigma, oppression, and deception, and FREE to understand the truth about the consequences of smoking.

The Council is an integral part of the FREE program and was convened to provide youth input for the development of the program and to create leadership opportunities for young people. The program's primary goal includes the development of printed materials and a media campaign to raise awareness concerning the negative health effects of tobacco and to expose the efforts of the tobacco industry to target the LGBTQ community. Through the program, NYAC also provides information and technical assistance to organizations who are developing tobacco prevention and cessation programs or events for LGBTQ youth.

The Council held its first face-to-face meeting immediately prior to NYAC's sixth annual National Youth Summit. It was an intense two-day meeting during which the youth had an opportunity to network, provide input on current projects, and increase their leadership skills.
This diverse coalition of young leaders has taken the opportunity to make their voices heard at the national level. NYAC is proud to provide opportunities for these courageous young people to network and support each other in all of the important work that they engaged in at the local community level.
If you would like more information about the Council or NYAC's FREE program, please contact NYAC's Health Promotion Educator Urooj Arshad at 202.319.7596 x19 or by e-mail at [email protected]; or NYAC's Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Susan Hollinshead at 202.319.7596 x17 or by e-mail at [email protected]. Also, please check out our website at for additional resources on tobacco prevention and cessation.


The National Youth Advocacy Coalition is the only national organization solely focused on advocacy, education, and information addressing the broad range of issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. NYAC works to end discrimination against these young people and to ensure their physical and emotional well-being. NYAC is a social justice organization and represents the interests of LGBT youth and the over 500 organizations nationwide providing support services to LGBT youth.

NYAC Tobacco Control and Prevention Youth Advisory Council Members
Kaitlin Barton, 17 years old, is founder of the Ventura County Youth Tobacco Coalition & president of the California Youth Advocacy Network with five years of leadership experience in local, regional and state level advocacy organizations. She currently attends Adolfo Camarillo High School in Camarillo, California.

Jessica Burt, 16 years old, is a student at High School for the Arts. She wants to help her school become tobacco FREE. She also wants to help LGBTQ youth quit smoking and she is one of the founders of North Carolina Lambda Youth Network's new (NCLYN) tobacco control initiative.

Maurice Carter, 19 years old, is a senior at the Durham High School for the Arts. He wants to help his school become tobacco FREE and is one of the founders of North Carolina Lambda Youth Network's (NCLYN) new tobacco control initiative.

Jess Dugan, 17 years old, is a "genderqueer" activist living in the Boston area. He is a peer educator for Tomorrow withOUT Tobacco (formerly known as Tobacco Education for Gay and Lesbian Youth). He is also the youth vice-president on the Project 10 East Board of Directors and is well known for organizing and facilitating many queer events, speaking at and facilitating rallies, organizing independent activist campaigns, and speaking to health classes on the issues faced by the queer community. He is studying at the Massachusetts College of Art and is committed to activism and the fight for equality.

Caspian Gardner, 19 years old, is a tobacco educator for District 202 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He served as the Representative on the Target Market Statewide Board and on the Target Market Executive Committee. He wants to help LGBTQ youth stop smoking and is working to get legislation to limit the placement of tobacco advertisements.

Ashlee Irish, 21 years old, is a third year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in European Studies with minors in Italian, LGBT studies and Women's Studies. She is part of two research teams on campus, Black C.A.R.E and W.H.I.S.P.E.R.S, examining young African American MSMs sexual health and lesbian healthcare. Ashlee is currently an intern at Advocates for Youth.

Danielle Jefferson, 16 years old, is a student at High School for the Arts. She wants to help her school become tobacco FREE. She also wants to help LGBTQ youth quit smoking and is one of the founders of North Carolina Lambda Youth Network's new (NCLYN) tobacco control initiative.

Vickie Pearce, 18 years old, is a youth resource peer educator for Advocates for Youth, the Gay Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and the Sexual Violence Center. She has held many different positions including serving on the Advocates for Youth Young Women of Color Leadership Council, the Youth Activist Network, with GLSEN as a student of color organizer, the Jump Start Leadership Team, as a part of the "Teaching Respect for All" National Student Leadership Team, and as a Sexual Violence Peer Educator.
Ben Riskin, 20 years old, is studying sociology and interning for The Mautner Project through American Legacy Foundation's Project 2030 national internship program. Doing queer youth outreach for about five years with a focus on independent media and direct action politics, Ben lives in Washington, DC.
Paloma Sanchez, 16 years old, is a student at a charter high School in Durham, North Carolina. She wants to help her school become tobacco FREE. She also wants to help LGBTQ youth quit smoking and is one of the founders of North Carolina Lambda Youth Network's new (NCLYN) tobacco control initiative.


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Last updated 7/17/2003 by Jean Richter, [email protected]