Submitted by Debbi Fincher
Rock Solid Youth Prevention Team represented the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition and our community at the annual Prevention Policy Day in Olympia this February. This advocacy effort is organized by the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, which fosters and supports youth involvement at the policy level.
The team represented the North Sound Region Tobacco and Vaping Control Prevention Program representing five counties including Snohomish, Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan, as well as their local coalition, … TVCPP funding is funded through the Department of Health, with regional administration by Snohomish Health District.
As part of the day on the Hill, Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, and Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, spoke to the youth about why they are champions for House Bill 1074 (Rep. Harris) and its companion, Senate Bill 5057 (Sen. Kuderer), establishing the minimum age of 21 for tobacco sales in Washington. Johnny Berg, Rock Solid chaperone, shared his support of the bill.
“This approach will drastically drop future users according to the statics they shared, which [was] nearly 95 percent of smokers started before the age of 21,” he said
We also met and heard from Annie Tegan, from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. According to recent studies, approximately 2,800 Washington state kids will become addicted to tobacco products each year. Imagine that is like having 39 school buses full of kids on their way to a lifetime of tobacco-related illnesses and addiction.
Luke Fincher, Rock Solid Youth, said, “I learned that passing legislation to raise the age of sale of tobacco and vapor products in Washington state from 18 to 21 will help protect my friends and peers from becoming addicted to nicotine. The timing of this is perfect; our Rock Solid team is doing an Escape the Vape prevention project at our school right now, and we can share this information. I appreciate everyone who is working on these important issues to help keep youth healthy.”
Ramona Flierl, Rock Solid Youth, said, “Seeing all the youth and prevention teams all in one place with a similar goal was inspiring! At the Youth Rally, I admired the bravery of those young people willing to share their personal stories and experiences related to vaping and tobacco addiction. Luke and I spoke at the rally, too, and found support for what we are doing with our prevention project. One team from Clark County shared they were inspired from Rock Solid at the Spring Youth Forum, two years ago. It made us all feel really good, and it’s cool to think about. We made a difference for them!”
Debbi Fincher, Rock Solid Team Advisor shared, “To round out the day, Rock Solid was able to meet with our new Senator for the 40th District, Liz Lovelett. Our time was well spent talking about the importance of prevention and how youth want to be an agent for change. Rock Solid also met our 40th District Rep. Debra Lekanoff on the house floor for a quick photo and introduction. We also had the good fortune to bump into and introduce ourselves, plus ask a few prevention related-questions to Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson and his Chief of Staff Mike Webb, as we were taking a photo of the Winged Victory Memorial.”
Luke Fincher said, “What a day! I’m so glad we had this opportunity to attend … our state’s capitol and meet the people that help shape our communities at this level. I’m grateful to those that helped make it happen. I hope to attend again next year!”