Georgia Teens Honored in Nation’s Capital for Tobacco-Free Campaign

Edited by Titus Falodun | 5/23/2014, 11:46 a.m.
Four Georgia youths of the H.E.A.R.T. Coalition, a statewide substance-abuse prevention organization, earned Youth Advocates of the Year honors by ...
Left to right: Cantrell Foster, Deshanda Smarr, Desha Smarr, and Joseph Cole are Youth Advocates of the Year, in their fight against tobacco.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Four Georgia youths of the H.E.A.R.T. Coalition, a statewide substance-abuse prevention organization, earned Youth Advocates of the Year honors by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for their leadership in the fight against tobacco.

Joseph Cole, 18, a senior at Carver Health Science and Research; Cantrell Foster, 18, a senior at North Atlanta High School; Deshanda Smarr, 16, a junior at Carver Health Science and Research; and Desha Smarr, 15, a sophomore at Carver School of the Arts accepted the award at a gala in the nation’s capital on Thursday, May 15, along with four U.S. regional winners and a national winner.

“There are many programs to stop youth from smoking but they’re ran by adults,” Cole said. “And a lot of teenagers and kids just want to rebel and go against what adults say. But us being their peers, they’re more likely to listen to us, because we’re experiencing the same stuff.”

In Georgia, tobacco use claims 10,300 lives and costs $3.2 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 17 percent of the state’s high school students smoke.

“Tobacco is one of the major things that is killing our community,” Deshanda Smarr said. “And I felt if I spoke out about it, we could change our community.”

Last year, the group led a successful campaign for a tobacco-free parks ordinance, by gathering signatures for a petition and attending a City Council meeting to inform council members about problems such as secondhand smoke and cigarette butt litter that tobacco was causing in community parks.

“I didn’t know this little black boy could go this far and make a change,” Cole said.

More than 400 public health, political, civic and business leaders attended the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ 18th annual gala in Washington, D.C., to recognize these young leaders. The winners received educational scholarships and grants to continue their prevention efforts. They also continue to serve as ambassadors for Tobacco-Free Kids.

 “We are thrilled to honor the H.E.A.R.T. Coalition as our group winner,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Young leaders like them are crucial in the fight to make tobacco history and end this epidemic for good. With their help, we can create the first tobacco-free generation.” 

Free Bicycles given to 60 Honor and Perfect Attendance students

ATLANTA – Beecher Hills Elementary School students received free bicycles in recognition of their academic performance and/or perfect attendance record during the school year. 

The student bicycle giveaway is part of a joint effort between the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms to promote bicycling as part of an active, healthy lifestyle for children and to encourage families in Southwest Atlanta to enjoy their community stretch of the Atlanta BeltLine.

 Students selected for the bicycle giveaway range from 1st to 5th graders. 20 of the students have achieved a stellar academic year. Bicycles are also being awarded to 40 students who have maintained perfect attendance this year. None of the 60 sixty selected children currently own a bicycle. For more information about the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, visit http://www.atlantabike.org/.