Hello, my name is My Nguyen, I am 15, and I live in Oklahoma City. I’m a member of YAHL, which stands for Youth Action for Health Leadership. In YAHL, we work on two youth-led campaigns: CounterAct Tobacco and Elevate Student Health. I joined YAHL because it is a really good way to help my community and be able to address issues I care about.
For CounterAct Tobacco, we are working to promote comprehensive tobacco retail licensing. For example, we want to make sure all tobacco retailers have a license to sell vapes and e-cigs. I have seen teens accessing vapes from gas stations and from strangers, and this is concerning to me. Smoking and vapes are the hardest to dodge when there are ads and the access to them in gas stations and convenience stores is so easy. They always put beautiful colors and flavors in front of kids’ eye levels. The flavors and vapes are often advertised as not being as bad as cigarettes, but vapes still contain toxic levels of nicotine when you smoke them. You are literally putting nickels and metals into your lungs – that’s dangerous.
For Elevate Student Health, we are working to put healthy food options in schools and improve school wellness policies. I see that many schools in Oklahoma, especially in rural areas or small towns, don’t have access to clean drinking water or healthy food options. I see easy access to junk food at school. For example, in school when they are selling foods for clubs, events and fundraisers, the majority of the time it is junk foods containing high calories and trans fats. Through Elevate Student Health we are working to create alternative healthy options like trail mix or fruits and vegetables. This may face some challenges, but it will feel good when I see my friends and teachers more active, happy and healthy from the food they are eating.
With YAHL I will put a voice to the voiceless to help Oklahomans see that vapes are not safe and there are policies that can protect us. I want to help Oklahoma schools be the healthiest they can be. I hope that through my efforts members of my community can understand the dangers of tobacco and the importance of healthy schools.