2020 statewide Break Free Youth Action Summit goes virtual


The following news release is from Fargo Cass Public Health:

The 2020 annual statewide Break Free Youth Action Summit was held Wednesday, Oct. 7 in a virtual format and attracted more than 200 attendees from around the state. The summit is solely focused on tobacco prevention and helps students find their voice and learn how to share their stories with policy makers.

This year’s speaker, Natalie Cashin, joined the event from Boston, Mass. Natalie is the Training and Capacity Building Program Manager for Health Resources in Action. Natalie works on various projects involving racial and health equity, youth development, and tobacco prevention. As part of this work, Natalie uses the youth development approach to help support and empower young people to make change in their communities.

Madeline Erickson, a junior from St. Mary’s High School in Bismarck, N.D. provided opening comments for the summit. Erickson has been involved in Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) for two years, is a member of the Break Free Youth Board, and is North Dakota’s Youth Ambassador with Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Youth are at the center of the nation’s current vaping epidemic, in large part due to how the tobacco industry is marketing products with bright colored packaging, sleek designs and kid friendly flavors. Research shows 4 out of 5 kids who have used tobacco products started with a flavored product. According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 33.1% of North Dakota high school students use e-cigarettes compared to the national rate of 32.7%.

Strategies to decrease e-cigarette use among youth include increasing the price of all tobacco products, restricting the sale of flavored e-liquids and other tobacco products sold at convenience stores, and raising the statewide age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

In the weeks and months following the summit, students who attended will work with their peers to create activities for the Great American Smokeout (November 19, 2020), Great American Spit Out (February 25, 2021), and Kick Butts Day (TBD).

The statewide virtual Break Free Youth Action Summit is organized and sponsored by Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, Fargo Cass Public Health and Tobacco Free North Dakota.