On Thursday July 22, 2021, youth from B.O.L.D. Teens met with staff from Ayanna Pressley’s office to share their support for The FDA’s decision to ban menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. Leading the meeting were Kristina Pruitt, a rising sophomore at Boston Latin Academy, and Keshler Sanon, an incoming student at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. The students created and shared a presentation that provided context on the issue of menthol cigarettes, which have been historically targeted to communities of color, and the deliberate targeting of flavored tobacco and vaping products toward youth. Pruitt and Sanon also shared their personal connection to the issue, including family members who have struggled with addiction to nicotine and the prevalence of their peers vaping in school. The same industry that targeted their family members, they said, are currently targeting their age group to create a new generation of lifelong customers. Keshler Sanon shared “We are happy to live in a state that is trying to protect youth from all flavored tobacco. We hope to see this effort across the country. “
Massachusetts is currently the only state with an active restriction on menthol products after Governor Baker signed the landmark bill last year.
In addition to sharing their support for the FDA’s decision, Kristina and Keshler discussed the need for more resources for those looking to quit using tobacco products. They provided education on the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act, a federal bill that allows for increased access to tobacco cessation products under Medicaid. Following their meeting, Rep. Ayanna Pressley became the bill’s 42nd co-sponsor. The students were told by a staffer at the Congresswoman’s office that her co-sponsorship was “directly because of their advocacy.” Kristina Pruitt shared “I want other youth to know how powerful our voices are. We can really make change.”
B.O.L.D. Teens, a youth-led group focused on social, environmental and health justice. It stands for Breath of Life Dorchester and it has been working to improve the health of the community since the 1990s.
Photo provided by Cynthia Loesch-Johnson