Evolvement: Memories from Day at the Capitol
Howdy there, my name is Aracely Flores-Ramirez and I’m a junior at Valencia High School and this is my very first year with the Evolvement program here in New Mexico. Even before I learned about this amazing organization and its partner programs, keeping my generation from becoming addicted to tobacco has always been a priority to me. I’ve gone to talk to our senators and representatives about tobacco-related policies multiple times since I was in the eighth grade.
This year, I had the pleasure of attending the capitol to talk about Tobacco Retail Licensing with the No Minor Sale Campaign. A policy, which I am extremely happy to say, has been passed in the state of New Mexico. This policy ensures that more stores are held accountable for illegal sales to minors. This will have an astronomical effect on the availability of tobacco to youth today. Most teenagers only start using tobacco products (such as e-cigarettes) because they tried it with a friend and they could keep getting their hands on it after their first taste. It is hard to change the issue of negative peer pressure, but it is easier to stop it at the inciting incident. Tobacco Retail Licensing was merely the first step in stopping the cycle.
It is through our voices that we can stop more stories like this moving forward. Policy makers have no idea what problems our generation is facing unless we speak up. Legislators, and adults in general, are not superhuman. They don’t know what issues we face and much less how to connect with us to solve it. This is why we have to take responsibility for our fellow students. If we work in collaboration with principles, school boards, and state legislature, the impact will be much greater. Nobody knows us like we know ourselves.
Think of it like this. The more work we do now, the less work we’ll have to do later. Why spend millions of dollars on tobacco cessation programs as tax-paying adults, when we can just work with our fellow students and keep them from needing those programs to begin with? It’s easy to live in the moment and forget about the future. I know it seems hopeless to fight for a tobacco-free school when you see kids vaping in the bathroom the minute you finish a principal meeting. Always remember the end goal in these times! Change happens slowly. You may not see the effects of your advocacy for years, and that’s ok. In the end you likely helped at least one person. You did your part to create a healthier community.
There is no time like the present to act. Everyone has the power to help someone else. Go hand out information cards, conduct student surveys, schedule a meeting with your principle. Evolvement has endless resources to help you along the way. So, go out and do your part!