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Alaska Youth Guest Speakers at U.S. Surgeon General’s Region X Town Hall

Anchorage, ALASKA – Alaska youth were featured as part of the U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin’s efforts to engage youth in tobacco prevention at the Region X Youth and Tobacco Town Hall in Seattle on June 14, 2012. Held at the University of Washington, the Town Hall provided a venue for the Surgeon General to share her recently released report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults and facilitated discussion around the topics of tobacco use being the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the United States, and that nearly all tobacco use begins during youth and young adulthood.

Two Alaska youth attended the Town Hall as participants on the youth panel on tobacco use and prevention: Rachel Gulanes, an upcoming senior at Unalaska City Schools in Unalaska; and Adele Argaitchiaq Solski, a recent graduate of Lathrop High School in Fairbanks. Both young women were selected for their active involvement in tobacco prevention within their communities.

Gulanes began working in health prevention at age 14, and joined the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) Youth Leaders statewide coalition last fall. She has been instrumental in leading the coalition’s efforts to draft resolutions of support for statewide smoke-free workplace law and comprehensive tobacco-free school district policy. She brought both resolutions forward to the Alaska Association of Student Governments’ delegates, and both were passed at the annual Spring Leadership conference. “I was star-struck by the invitation to participate in the Town Hall,” says Gulanes, “I’m eager to address the issue of tobacco use within my region and the Surgeon General’s plan to make a difference with youth and tobacco-use.”

Solski is of Inupiaq Eskimo heritage and has been eagerly learning about Alaska Native cultures. “The obstacles of being away from the land where my culture thrives has pushed me to learn more,” she says, “And in learning about my culture it is sad to see how prevalent tobacco use is, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of this panel and discuss Alaska Native culture and tobacco-use.”
 
“Alaska has made tremendous progress in reducing youth tobacco use, yet there is more work to be done,” says Alexandria Hicks, State of Alaska Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Manager, “We’re proud of the every young person that works to prevent or eliminate tobacco use in their community, and congratulate Rachel and Adele on their participation in the Town Hall.”

The Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) is a statewide organization that works to create conditions in Alaska to be tobacco-free. For more information on Alaska tobacco control activities, please visit the ATCA website at Alaskatca.org or Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line website at Alaskaquitline.com .
                          

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