WASHINGTON, D.C. (Hinton News) – J.R. Ash has been named a 2023 Youth Advocate of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Ash will be honored for his advocacy efforts in the fight for a tobacco-free future on May 18 at the 2023 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards celebration in Washington D.C.
Growing up in West Virginia, Ash faced the realities of advocating in a state with the highest rate of tobacco use in the U.S. Despite these obstacles, he refuses to accept the status quo, combining creativity and passion to move the needle. Recognizing his authenticity and impact, the American Heart Association chose Ash to voice radio PSAs about the impact that Big Tobacco has on teens.
“When I first heard about the Youth Advocate of the Year award, I was too young to apply but I vastly remember my desire to be exactly like those who were honored each year,” said Ash “I’ve worked extremely hard in the fight against big tobacco but having this national recognition, reassures me that my work is powerful, and youth have a voice in this fight!”
Ash has been an exceptional member of Raze for five years, serving as an ambassador and helping the organization tear down the lies of big tobacco. He’s worked with many West Virginia lawmakers, pushing the state Legislature to increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and pushing them to oppose a law that would allow cigar bars at resorts. Moreover, he has met with his school board to push for non-punitive tobacco use policies that focus on cessation and support.
“We are pleased to name J.R. Ash as one of our Youth Advocates of the Year,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “J.R.’s dedication to powering through adversity to protect his community makes him a tremendous voice in the fight for the first tobacco-free generation.”
Every year, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids honors a National Youth Advocate of the Year, four Individual Youth Advocates of the Year and one Group Youth Advocates of the Year. The winners receive scholarships to continue their tobacco prevention efforts and serve as youth ambassadors for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 Americans and costs the nation $241 billion in tobacco-related health care costs each year. Tobacco kills more than 8 million people worldwide every year.
In West Virginia, tobacco use claims 4,300 lives annually and costs $1.17 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 13.5% of West Virginia high school students smoke cigarettes, and 35.7% use e-cigarettes.
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