Smoke-Free Shoals member participates in Youth Advocacy Symposium in Washington, D.C.


CONTACT: Melanie Dickens
(256) 765-7557

A local high school student met with the offices of Sen. Doug Jones, Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Robert Aderholt in July 2019 to discuss legislation to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic by cracking down on flavored tobacco products that appeal to kids. He shared special concerns about Juul, a sleek, concealable e-cigarette that has skyrocketed in popularity among youth due to its sweet flavors and high dose of nicotine.

Carson Seat, 14, member of Smoke-Free Shoals, along with Melanie Dickens, Alabama Department of Public Health youth tobacco coordinator, visited Washington, D.C., to participate in the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Youth Advocacy Symposium, a five-day workshop that builds skills in advocacy, communications and leadership. Twenty-seven youth advocates from 22 states participated in this year’s event. This is the first time Alabama had representatives participate.

Seat and other participants asked members of Congress to support legislation that puts common sense restrictions on tobacco companies’ use of flavors that appeal to kids. Youth often start using tobacco products with a flavored product and report that they use tobacco products “because they come in flavors I like.” Cracking down on flavored tobacco products is one of the most important steps Congress can take to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and drive down youth tobacco use.

In Alabama, 14.0 percent of high school students smoke traditional cigarettes, 24.5 percent use e-cigarettes and 15.5 percent of high school boys smoke cigars. Tobacco use claims 8,600 lives in Alabama each year.

“Youth advocates like Carson are taking action to stop the tobacco industry from addicting kids with exotic flavors,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “With their passion and leadership in protecting their peers, we can make the next generation tobacco-free.”

Flavored products, especially Juul, have driven the skyrocketing youth e-cigarette epidemic, which is addicting a new generation of kids and threatening the decades-long progress the nation has made in reducing youth tobacco use. In 2018 alone, e-cigarette use increased by an alarming 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). More than 3.6 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2018 – an increase of 1.5 million in just one year.

Flavored cigars are also popular among youth. Cigars are especially popular among high school boys, who smoke cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes, and among African American high school students, who smoke cigars at nearly three times the rate of cigarettes, according to the 2018 NYTS.

There is also more than enough evidence to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. Menthol cools and numbs the throat and reduces the harshness of tobacco smoke, making menthol cigarettes more appealing for kids who are starting smoking. Over half of youth smokers ages 12-17 – and seven in 10 African American youth smokers – use menthol cigarettes. A comprehensive Food and Drug Administration scientific analysis, issued in 2013, concluded that menthol cigarettes 1) increase smoking initiation and progression to regular smoking among youth and young adults; 2) increase nicotine dependence (addiction); and 3) reduce success in quitting smoking.

Visit or for more information. Alabama residents may call the Alabama Tobacco Quitline that provides free, individualized coaching to help tobacco users quit. Alabama residents may call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit for help. The Quitline offers up to eight weeks of free nicotine patches to those medically eligible and enrolled in the program. Quitline coaching services are available seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight.