User-turned-advocate to be honored for youth tobacco work

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Abby Hefner/The Paducah Sun

PADUCAH, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) Abby Hefner, of Paducah, Ky., has been named a Youth Advocate of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Hefner will be honored Wednesday evening for her leadership in the fight against tobacco at the Tobacco-Free Kids’ annual Youth Advocates of the Year Awards celebration, which is being held virtually this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The event will be livestreamed at tobaccofreekids.org/strongvoices at 6:00 p.m. EDT.

Hefner started using Juul at her first-ever high school football game.

She quickly got hooked and was later caught vaping in school and served an in-school suspension. As a straight-A student and member of the J.P, Stevens High School Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, she was devastated and decided to use her experience to create change that would prevent her friends from vaping.

Abby initiated a vaping education program in local schools and helped develop a survey to better understand youth use of flavored e-cigarettes.

She used the results from this survey to advocate to her state and federal officials for the need to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products.

Abby has shared her story at a rally in Frankfort and at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s press conference in Washington, D.C. in support of the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would eliminate flavored tobacco products.

Her story has also been featured in several national and local publications, including The New York Times and Prevention Magazine.

“We are thrilled to honor Abby Hefner as a Youth Advocate of the Year,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Young advocates like Abby are bravely standing up to the tobacco industry and leading the way to the first tobacco-free generation.”

Every year, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids honors a National Youth Advocate of the Year, four Individual Youth Advocates of the Year and a Group Youth Advocate of the Year. The winners receive scholarships to continue their tobacco prevention efforts and serve as youth ambassadors for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 Americans and costing the nation $170 billion in health care bills each year. Tobacco kills more than 8 million people worldwide each year.

In Kentucky, tobacco use claims 8,900 lives and costs $1.92 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 8.9% of Kentucky’s high school students smoke cigarettes and 26.1% use e-cigarettes.