Published on May 2nd, 2022 | by Burlington Partnership0
2022 Vermont Prevention Day
In April we had the pleasure of heading to the VT State House with three Burlington High School teens and our staff to join hundreds of other school groups and prevention professionals from across the state there to advocate for improving prevention resources in VT and to take action on flavored tobacco products targeting youth. As BHS freshman Lincoln Safran told a Burlington Representative, “Kids see “cherry flavored” and think, “I like cherry”, I bet I would like that.”
BHS Seniors Thomas Sutton and Shamura Awayle shared with the legislators their hopes for a better future for their younger classmates and siblings where mood-altering substances are not marketed to youth.
Thomas also gave a powerful speech to the crowd gathered about his own experiences with being marketed to while his brain was still developing and learning and spoke with ABC 22/44 news. We’ve shared Thomas’ speech below. A special thank you to legislators Emma Mulvaney-Stanak and Barbara Rachelson for meeting with us and talking with us about substance use and prevention at VT Prevention Day!
Thomas Sutton (he/him), Burlington High School Senior
Speech written for Vermont Prevention Day 2022 – April 7th
Location: Vermont State House Front Steps
“My name is Thomas and I am a senior at Burlington High School.
I have used nicotine products in the past and I have many friends who still do. There is a misconception that nicotine and tobacco abuse is the result of “bad kids”. This is not true. Addiction is the result of Predatory marketing and valuing money over the health and well being of our most vulnerable community members.
When Juul flavors are just as likely to be seen in a candy shop as they are in a tobacco store, that’s a problem. When I can show up to school with $20 and get a vape by the end of the day, that’s a problem. When the state is profiting off harming the communities health that’s a problem. When victims of multi million dollar marketing schemes are seen as bad kids, that’s a problem.
We need to let tobacco companies know that our youths’ health is not for sale. Now’s your chance to show that you care about our youths’ well beings. This is my last year of high school. I sincerely hope that the kids of tomorrow have a different experience from mine. Nicotine addiction shouldn’t be treated like a minor inconvenience, the result of bad kids, or an inevitability of high school. It needs to be treated as a problem; and one that we can fix.”