On Tuesday, February 20th, a group of members from the Youth Advocates for Health and Liberty (YAHL) took a significant step towards promoting the CounterAct Tobacco campaign by visiting the Oklahoma State Capitol. Eighteen dedicated young individuals seized the opportunity to advocate for comprehensive tobacco retail licensing in their communities, aiming to combat the growing concerns around vaping and tobacco use among Oklahoma’s youth.

During their visit, these inspiring youth met with 33 legislators to discuss the importance of implementing retail licensure for e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in the state. With rates of vaping on the rise and more than one out of five Oklahoma youth reporting tobacco product use, the need for effective regulations and policies to protect the health of young individuals has never been more critical.

Oklahoma currently stands as one of only 17 states without retail licensure for e-cigarettes, and restrictive state laws prevent cities and towns from regulating tobacco and vape licensure, advertising, and indoor air quality. Despite these challenges, the determined youth of YAHL engaged in meaningful conversations with legislators, presenting facts and sharing their personal insights on vaping and school wellness policies.

Addison Null, a Junior from Hennessey High School, expressed her enthusiasm and appreciation for the opportunity to engage with members of the state government. She found the experience both interesting and educational, highlighting the receptiveness of the Representatives and Senators to listen and support their cause. Addison’s positive outlook and eagerness to participate in similar advocacy efforts in the future reflect the dedication and commitment of the YAHL members towards promoting public health initiatives in their communities.

The impactful advocacy work undertaken by these young individuals serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of youth engagement and advocacy in addressing critical public health issues.