Youth-led RAZE Summit empowers teens to go tobacco-free

There were 66 RAZE groups from 32 West Virginia counties that descended on the state capitol in Charleston for the 20th annual Tobacco-Free Day.

The youth-led RAZE event educates our youth on the dangers of tobacco products and empowers them to say yes to a tobacco-free culture and communities.

In sixth grade Bonnie Hughes first became interested in RAZE, the tobacco prevention movement led by thousands of West Virginia teens fighting against big tobacco, and she is doing her part to advocate for a tobacco-free future.

“Try to learn how bad it is for you… ’cause all these big tobacco companies are lying to you about saying how it’s not bad for you,” said Hughes, a Huntington High School 10th grader.

RAZE became part of Ava Johnson’s life during her seventh-grade year of middle school. And from that point on she knew she had to do something to make a difference.

“Because I thought that it was a huge issue around me and I saw a lot of my friends and even some family members using tobacco and I thought that it was a really big epidemic that we need to help stop,” said Johnson, a Spring Valley High School 9th-grade RAZE ambassador.

There’s nothing good about smoking — and it’s incredibly harmful to the human body.

“Your lungs ’cause you’re breathing in all those toxic chemicals, and then it’s also like hurting your environment and all the people around you,” Hughes said.

According to Ava, smoking is affecting younger kids now.

“We even see it in fourth and fifth-graders around us,” she said.

The dangers of tobacco cannot be underestimated, no matter who you are.

“You might not even smoke and you can still get exposed to second-hand smoke because the people around you smoke,” said Hughes, adding that it can still hurt you.

RAZE is important to show everyone that tobacco companies will never tell you the truth, so stop falling for their lies, says Ava.

“We need to stay tobacco-free as long as we can so that we don’t become a generation that literally relies on tobacco,” said the RAZE ambassador.

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