“This bill helps raise the age of tobacco buying, from 18 to 21. Why? Have you ever walked down a street and noticed how many people are actually smoking? As a child, people don’t think my opinion matters, but it does… If you vote to raise the age, then I don’t have to worry.” -Generation Citizen Student
This fall, students in Cindy Lucock’s GC class at Del Sesto Middle School decided to take action on the issue of drug use in their community, ultimately focusing specifically on smoking. In researching the topic, the class learned that most smokers begin using tobacco at a young age. Students shared stories of seeing their younger siblings roll up paper and pretend to be smoking cigarettes, or of family members who developed health problems or died from tobacco use. When they learned about a bill that would raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco to 21, they decided to focus their advocacy project on lobbying for the bill to be reintroduced and passed in the 2017 legislative session.
To accomplish this, the students broke into different outreach teams. One group contacted the Healthy Communities Office in Providence and held a meeting with Youth Engagement Consultant James Day, who shared information on past and current efforts to reduce tobacco use. Another group called local stores carrying tobacco products to try to interview managers about how they thought the bill would impact their business.
A third group reached out to the bill sponsor, Representative Teresa Tanzi:
Dear Teresa Tanzi,
We heard about how you introduced two bills that were important to us and we thank you for your efforts and hard work.
We are students from DelSesto Middle School. This semester in Generation Citizen we are focusing on drug abuse and smoking health. We hope that you will help us in this bill. Kids at young ages are smoking and it causes bad health. Too many people are getting hurt from smoking. We need to increase the age of smoking tobacco. Kids at 11+ are smoking which is bad for their youth and growth. The bill that you introduced to raise the age of smoking tobacco is a really good idea, because kids are smoking tobacco when they are young. Smoking is bad for their health. We want you to reintroduce the bill and work hard for it.
Thank you for reading. We hope you consider sending us an email back.
Representative Tanzi responded in November to let the students know that she was planning to reintroduce the bill, and that she looked forward to working with them. This week, she emailed again to say that she was about to reintroduce the bill and invited the class to work alongside other student groups and organizations lobbying in support of the legislation:
“Every year that goes by without passage of this legislation, more youth become addicted to nicotine and head down a dangerous path that we know is wholly preventable. I look forward to working with the students at Del Sesto and throughout the state to have their passion shine through so we can pass this bill!”
Their Generation Citizen semester formally ended in December. However, the students are currently writing personal testimonies to be able to support the bill when it comes up for a hearing, continuing to make their voices heard in the political process!