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Alaska youth shine in SELECTION TO ATTEND U.S. Surgeon general’s REGION X TOWN HALL


Youth selected to participate in panel discussion for their role in tobacco prevention.

Anchorage, ALASKA – Alaska youth will be featured as part of the U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin’s efforts to engage youth in tobacco prevention at the upcoming Region X Youth and Tobacco Town Hall in Seattle on June 14, 2012. Held at the University of Washington, the Town Hall will provide a venue for the Surgeon General to share her recently released report, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults” and will facilitate 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 have been selected to attend the Town Hall as participants in a 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 smokefree 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.”

Additionally, in March, the Surgeon General announced a video contest, with the theme of “Tobacco – I’m Not Buying It,” and challenged youth and young adults to speak up about preventing tobacco use. Another Alaska youth, William Warren Bowman from Fairbanks, placed as the First Runner-Up in the 18-25 age category with his video. Titled “Not Quite So Different,” it features two young women, who although are very different on the surface, discover they’ll both share the same health effects from smoking. William’s video can be viewed online at cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2012/contest/.

Today, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. In Alaska, an estimated 14 percent of high school students smoke and over 8 percent use smokeless tobacco, which means that on average in any given Alaska class of 30 high school students, four smoked a cigarette and 2-3 used smokeless tobacco within the last month.

“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 being selected to participate in the Town Hall.”

Alaskans can view the Town Hall via live web streaming from the University of Washington between      8 am and 10:45 am AST on June 14, 2012 by logging onto uwtv.org/webcast/youthandtobacco.

The Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) is a statewide organization that works to create conditions in Alaska to be tobacco-free. ATCA was formed in 1992 to crate a statewide network of health advocates to develop, support and sustain comprehensive tobacco control programs. For more information on Alaska tobacco control activities, please visit the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance website at Alaskatca.org <http://www.alaskatca.org>  or Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line website at Alaskaquitline.com <http://www.alaskaquitline.com> .

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