BMore Champions4Change Youth Advocates Make Powerful Impact in the Fight For Tobacco Control in Maryland

Mircrophone with blurred audienceTowson High School student Noah Rich’s voice is a powerful example of the way BMore Champions4Change Youth advocates are making a big impact in fostering a healthier Maryland.

“It feels great that our stories made a difference! When everything seems so polarized, it feels really empowering that Maryland went to work for us,” said Rich.

BMore Champions4Change advocates were a driving force of influencers recently when the Maryland Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of HB 732, the final step in enacting the state’s first cigarette tax increase in almost a decade. The policy includes a $1.75 per pack increase on cigarettes and, for the first time, a tax on electronic smoking devices (e-cigarettes). The tobacco tax increase is projected to raise over $95 million in revenue, reduce the long-term health care costs from adult and youth smoking, offset costs associated with COVID-19, and provide critical funding for Maryland’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program.

“This new law is a great step forward to make sure that Big Tobacco will never win again, and that future students will not have to deal with smoking lounge-bathrooms,” said Rich.

BMore Champions4Change empowers Maryland youth to take action on issues that address their heart health. From ending tobacco use to eliminating food deserts, Maryland youth are standing up and committing to make healthier changes for their friends and in their communities, with support from the American Heart Association — the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives — and the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS).

UMMS spokesperson Dr. Thomas B. Smyth, president and CEO of University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center and chairman of the American Heart Association’s statewide 2020 Heart Walk, said the system sponsors the BMore Champions4Change movement in Maryland as part of its commitment to healthier communities.

“BMore Champions4Change is creating a more vibrant, healthy and engaged Maryland by  creating a platform that empowers youth to speak up and speak out about what matters most: the health, safety and future of Maryland citizens and communities,” said Dr. Smyth. “As a health care system that proudly supports Maryland’s best health, UMMS applauds the worthy work of BMore Champions4Change, a force for positive and profound change throughout our state.”

High school student advocates take part in Champions4Change. Efforts include participation in lobby days, calling and emailing lawmakers, and writing op-eds.

American Heart Association Director of Government Relations Laura Hale has worked with youth advocates to build a healthier Maryland for several years, and seen first-hand the impact of their volunteerism.

“Youth voices change the narrative. In Maryland we really saw this in our prior work with Tobacco 21 as young people explained to our communities and legislators what they were seeing every day in their schools. Youth advocacy was an important factor in the recent veto override victory. Students share their stories so that their peers no longer fall prey to the tobacco industry, and that supports our work in Annapolis,” said Hale.

If you or a youth advocate you know would like to make a difference by taking part in Champions4Change, sign up here.