Last month, three Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) members and their advisors, Maria Gonzalez and Patti Wheater, spent a day in Lansing as part of the Keep MI Kids Tobacco Free Alliance Day at the Capitol. The tobacco treatment and prevention team at Corewell Health Gerber Hospital spoke at a YAC meeting earlier in the year about vaping and tobacco use in Newaygo County. We were grateful for the invitation to then join them in Lansing on June 13.

The day began by meeting with other groups from around the state to learn more about tobacco use in Michigan and a bill package aimed at reducing youth tobacco use. A few facts we learned:

  • Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Michigan, killing more than 16,200 Michiganders annually. (American Lung Association)
  • Michigan is ranked 49th in state spending on tobacco prevention, ahead of just West Virginia and Texas. Michigan spends only 1.7% of the CDC’s recommended funding level. (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids)
  • Michigan is one of 12 states that make up a region called “Tobacco Nation.” These states—including Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and others—have a smoking prevalence nearly 50% higher than in the rest of the U.S. (Truth Initiative)

We were scheduled to meet with our legislators later in the morning and had time to practice and prepare. Our group met with State Representative Joseph Fox. YAC students Cayman, Noah, and Rachel did a great job sharing facts on vaping and tobacco use and their perspectives on the impact of vaping on their peers.

After lunch, we went on a tour of the Capitol building and sat in the gallery as the House of Representatives voted on a bill. The tour was a highlight of the day. “My favorite part of our day in Lansing was being able to explore the Capitol building for the first time and see all of the beautiful architecture,” said Cayman.

We wrapped up our day with an ice cream social on the Capitol lawn. It was a great day to bring awareness to an important issue, experience new things, and get an up-close look at how our state government works.

“It’s important to be educated and a part of a higher level of knowledge to help understand what is going on in the state,” said Noah.