Our History


The Breath of Life Dorchester (“BOLD”) Teens started with four teens in the community personally impacted by tobacco related illnesses within their families. They wanted to prevent others from losing their lives from tobacco use or exposure. They took off as a youth-led group focused on tobacco education and tobacco control policies.

Originally known as Teens Against Tobacco (“TAT”), they were trained on tobacco education, prevention and advocacy in the community.  The Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program funded TAT with resources from the Master Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) and excise tax on tobacco products. The first major campaign of these youth was in 1998 where they convinced the Boston Globe to stop advertising tobacco products.  This initiative included letters to the editor, and publisher and a meeting at the Boston Globe headquarters in Dorchester.  After a petition with over 3,000 signatures and a press conference, the Boston Globe discontinued their Parliament advertisements.  Click here to learn more.


In 2001, TAT celebrated Fenway Park going smoke free on the field with the players and the Boston Area Youth Tobacco Action Group (“BAYTAG”) members.  TAT youth also went to the Supreme Court in Washington DC where it hoped to pass the Massachusetts Initiative to no longer allow tobacco advertisements 1,000 feet from schools and playgrounds, where youth congregate.

In 2001, the youth began its campaign to ban the sale of tobacco products in Boston pharmacies. BOLD efforts included thousands of signatures for its petition, hundreds of letters of support and daily protests in front of pharmacies selling a product guaranteed to harm. In 2008, the Boston Board of Health responded to these efforts by passing a regulation to ban the sale of tobacco products in Boston pharmacies. This regulation became effective February 9, 2009.

From 2001 to 2003 TAT suffered major budget cuts to the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program (“MTCP”).  Youth tobacco prevention programs were eliminated across the state, however the TAT members decided to continue as volunteers to keep the program strong. During this time, many youth in the program began to make the connection of secondhand smoke (environmental tobacco smoke) to the poor air quality of our community.   BOLD soon began to address environmental concerns like air quality and green space in the community as well. In 2002, the group “evolved” into Breath of Life Dorchester Teens, because the youth began to broaden their concerns to the air they breathe and the health of their community.  As BOLD focused on social and environmental justice, it drew special attention to the impact that climate change (now known as climate extremes) has on our environment and our health.  It worked to reduce the health impacts of diesel fuel emissions and educate the community on lead poisoning prevention.  BOLD also promoted the importance of green jobs and the need for more energy efficient healthy homes.
During this time, BOLD worked with state legislators on the Restore the Trust Bill to restore tobacco control funds.   It worked to increase community support with the Boston Public Health Commission to make Boston smoke-free in May 2003 and worked with Tobacco Free Massachusetts to ensure Massachusetts followed in July, 2004.

BOLD won the Youth Advocate of the Year Award from the National Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2010 for its tobacco control efforts.  Since 2001, BOLD focused on Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) regulation of tobacco products until 2009 when President Obama passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This Act granted the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products and mandated labeling reform. Years before the FDA developed the nine graphic cigarette-warning labels, BOLD developed its own warning labels in 2005 to educate the community on the dangers of tobacco use and exposure by sharing the toxins found in cigarettes and placing this label on cigarettes.   BOLD Teens worked with local merchants to develop these labels and placed them on popular cigarette brands before they were sold. Dr. Lawrence Deyton, then Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products visited the BOLD Teens to learn about the nations first tobacco labels and impact the labels were having in Boston in 2010.  Click here to learn more.
Unfortunately, in 2011, five tobacco companies responded to the FDA developed graphic warning labels by filing a lawsuit alleging that the labels unconstitutionally infringed on the companies’ rights.[1] Ultimately, in 2012, the FDA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (“RIA”) was called into question by the D.C. Circuit, which held that the graphic warnings were a violation of the tobacco companies’ commercial speech and the labels did not advance the FDA’s interests of reducing smoking rates.[2] The FDA chose not to appeal to the Supreme Court after the D.C. Circuit Court ruling, and the BOLD Teens look forward to seeing what happens next with tobacco warning labels.

In 2006, BOLD decided to expand its focus to increase peace, and to reduce crime and violence in our community.   BOLD work very closely with the Codman Square Neighborhood Council (“CSNC”) and have developed relationships with families and law enforcement in our community.  BOLD works to build strong relationships between youth and police with youth and police dialogues and engaging activities.  In 2007, after the CSNC advocated for a Boston Police Safe Streets Team in Codman Square, the BOLD Teens created the Youth Police Connection (“YPC”) to bring youth and law enforcement together to address communication barriers and build relationships. Click here for more.


BOLD was also very active around the passing of fire safe cigarettes in Massachusetts in 2007, requiring that the paper that tobacco is wrapped in, is paper that burns slower and safer, thus reducing home and forest fires. It requires that tobacco companies making and selling products in Massachusetts must use this special paper. New York was the only other state at the time requiring this paper. BOLD Teens were active in this law that has saved hundreds of lives and property damage.

After a meeting with Governor Deval Patrick in October of 2007, BOLD was assigned by Governor Patrick to develop an effective statewide youth council that properly represented youth throughout the state and developed a model for youth engagement at the state level. Click here for more.

In 2008, the BOLD Teens supported the CSNC in its creation of the Codman Square Farmers Market. Today BOLD help to manage the market promoting food justice and the importance of a local food system. Click here for more.

The BOLD Teens led an eight year campaign to ban the sale of tobacco products in Boston Pharmacies which was successful in 2009 and in Massachusetts in 2018.


FDA Regulation of tobacco products through the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.  We worked with our Representatives and Senators on this bill for more than six years and it finally happened with leadership of President Barack Obama.

Presently, BOLD continues to focus on environmental and social justice by improving health and safety issues the youth identify in their community.  In 2009 BOLD received the Community Leadership Award from the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). BOLD was continues to expanded and enhance its youth development and leadership models and has merged its work 100% with the Codman Square Neighborhood Council.


Dr. Lawrence Deyton the first Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products meet with the BOLD Teens to discuss our warning labels.  It was his first trip outside of D.C.


In 2012, BOLD received a statewide award from the Massachusetts Public Health Association.


In 2014, BOLD was recognized by the Boston Globe for its 8 year campaign to ban the sale of tobacco products in Boston pharmacies. Click here for more information.


Raising the tobacco sale age in Massachusetts in 2019. 


In 2020, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to ban all flavored tobacco products including menthol.

Although this summary does not capture all of the efforts of the BOLD Teens, it showcases some of the exceptional work youth are capable of and what the BOLD Teens have been able to accomplish over the years.

[1] R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. U.S. Food & Drug Admin., 823 F. Supp. 2d 36, 53 (D.D.C. 2011) vacated sub nom. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Food & Drug Admin., 696 F.3d 1205 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

[2] R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Food & Drug Admin., 696 F.3d 1205, 1222 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

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