Over the course of the three-day event, youth learned anti-tobacco activism techniques geared toward positively influencing their peers and attended discussions by well-known guest speakers National African American Tobacco Prevention Network National States Director LaTanisha C. Wright and Native American Tobacco Control Advocate and ClearWay, Minn., Community Development Manager Nicole “CoCo” Toves Villaluz.
“The presentations at the summit opened me up to how the tobacco industry is manipulating cultural practices to sell its products—for example it exploits the Native Americans tradition of using tobacco for spiritual practices,” said 16-year-old Maui REAL Statewide Advocate Monica Medrano.
“One thing that REAL wants people to know is that we are against the industry not the smoker,” said Hannah Fuqua, a 17-year-old graduate from Maui’s Baldwin High School and a REAL board member.
Maui students (left to right, on stage) Leimamo Naihe, Brandon Antonius, Keoki Naihe, Monica Medrano, Hannah Fuqua, (standing) Stephanie Franklin, Jenna Alipio, (on ground) Charae Tongg and Allex Halley participated in the The Real Experience VI Anti-Tobacco Youth Summit on O‘ahu earlier this month.
One of the summit’s main focuses aimed to educate youth about REAL’s “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” campaign, which investigated how the tobacco industry markets to youth using in-store advertising and product placement.
Additionally, as the tobacco industry markets its product to youth by engaging in popular culture techniques, REAL sought to arm youth activists with similar tools during Expression Session training workshops to effectively take their anti-tobacco message to their peers.
Expression Sessions were led by experienced youth activists and local artists who encouraged youth to employ photography, dance, art, slam poetry and music as outlets to convey their activism. Youth also attended seminars during the summit discussing media literary, social justice issues related to tobacco and smoking in Hollywood movies.
Participants put their activism skills to the test by staging several mobile rallies through the streets of Honolulu ending with a group dance performance on the busy sidewalks of Waikīkī.
Youth choose the theme “Share the Love” as part of their efforts to counter-market a current tobacco industry campaign by RJ Reynolds’ brand, Natural American Spirits, which asks potential customers to “Share the Love” by giving a friend a coupon for a gift certificate for free cigarettes.
“We do not see sharing the love as sharing cigarettes that will kill your loved ones,” said Fuqua. “So, we came up with a flash mob dance activism piece called ‘Share the Love.’ We got on two trolleys and went around O‘ahu yelling chants and handing out information about how you can actually share the love and making a statement to tobacco companies. We stopped twice and performed so people would be left questioning what sharing the love was all about.”
For more information about the summit event, visit www.therealmessage.net.
REAL: Hawai‘i Youth Movement Exposing the Tobacco Industry is made up of youth members from throughout the state. Membership continues to grow with 4,600 Hawai‘i youth presently standing up to the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing tactics that are aimed to hook a young generation of customers on tobacco products. REAL sponsors events, conducts street marketing, and has created the REAL brand to counter the harmful influence of tobacco advertising.