For One Young Woman, Honoring Hispanic Heritage Means Fighting Tobacco Within the Community
Twenty-five year old Anna Luzania knows first-hand the effects of tobacco in the Hispanic Community. As a student at California State University (CSU) at Fresno, she did what many young people enjoying their first years of college do not—she took action to save the lives of her fellow students and community. Nearly 5.1 million Hispanic adults in the United States smoke, and smoking takes a deadly toll. In 2007, heart disease and stroke accounted for nearly 30 percent of all deaths among Hispanics and more than 27,000 died of cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. and among Hispanics; smoking causes nearly one third of cancer deaths each year. Additionally, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer among Hispanic men and the second leading cancer killer among Hispanic women.
This year, in the spirit of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Legacy®, the national public health foundation dedicated to reducing tobacco use, applauds individuals like Anna, a past Fellow in the Legacy Youth Advocacy Fellowship program, who is are working to help educate Latinos about the dangers of tobacco. As a member of Individuals, Mentors, and Peers Advocating to Control Tobacco (IMPACT), Anna worked to tackle the prevalence of tobacco use among youth and young adults in the Fresno area. She took the lead in initiating voluntary tobacco control policies via the implementation of campus legislation on the CSU Fresno Campus, making it one of the first of 23 CSU campuses to adopt a smoke free policy.
Since her time at CSU, Anna has assisted in educating the Hispanic Community in Fresno about tobacco addiction and secondhand smoke. Anna has advocated for new and effective tobacco control policies, such as smoke-free venues and events and raising cigarette prices and taxes, which are shown to reduce smoking rates.
“Individuals like Anna are the key to a tobacco-free future,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy. “Legacy is proud to work with Anna and countless others in the Hispanic community to build a world where young people can reject tobacco and anyone can quit.”
Since its inception more than 10 years ago, Legacy has maintained a commitment to youth engagement in the fight to combat tobacco use in communities throughout the country. Anna is one of many youth who have participated in Legacy’s Youth Activism Fellowship, which grooms young activists to advance local tobacco prevention and control projects nationally as well as in their local community.
In the Hispanic community alone, more than 19 percent of Hispanic high school students smoke cigarettes. This month, Legacy urges all Latinos to fight tobacco from the Hispanic community at the local level. Together we can help stop the silent killer and promote longer healthier lives.