For Immediate Release
February 09, 2012
Contact Information

Sarah Shank

(BPRW) Black History Month: A Time to Make A Difference

- Legacy Youth Activist is Working to Reduce Tobacco's Impact on the African American Community -

(BLACK PR WIRE) – Washington, D.C. – Each February, Black History Month commemorates and honors African American leaders and history from past to present. Legacy® --the national public health nonprofit dedicated to reducing tobacco use–takes a moment to recognize the heavy historical toll that tobacco takes on the African American community. The organization also looks to the future with aspiring African American leaders like Jonathan Allen, a Louisiana college student and youth activist who feels passionate about reducing the impact that tobacco has on the African American community.

Since its inception more than ten years ago, Legacy has maintained a commitment to youth engagement in the fight to combat tobacco use in communities throughout the country. Jonathan is one of many youth to participate in Legacy’s Youth Activism Fellowship. The Fellowship program grooms young activists to advance local tobacco prevention and control projects nationally, as well as in their local communities.

In 2008, more than 16,000 African American deaths were attributed to lung, trachea or bronchus cancers, and smoking is a primary cause of these diseases. Each year, three quarters of African American smokers say they want to quit; 60 percent try but only 3 percent are successful. The tobacco industry has historically targeted African Americans, particularly for menthol brands;85 percent of African American high school students who smoke and 81 percent of African American middle school students who smoke, use menthol cigarettes.

“Statistics like these illustrate why it’s critical to reach young people at an early age with the best information on the toll of tobacco use and the marketing tactics of the tobacco industry,” said Cheryl G. Healton, Dr. P.H., President and CEO of Legacy. “Furthermore, the tobacco industry has heavily marketed its products to African Americans over the years, taking a deep toll on that community. Leaders like Jonathan are helping by working in their own communities to be a force for change.”

While in high school, Jonathan worked as an intern with the Bayou Teche Community Health Network (ByNet) in New Iberia, La., as a Special Projects Coordinator. In this role, he was able to assist in hosting community outreach events for youth that helped to educate young people on the harmful effects of early and prolonged tobacco use and exposure. Through this role, he became a tobacco-free, African American youth role model to young people within the community.

Jonathan has continued these efforts while attending Grambling State University, where he continues to lend his voice on this issue as a student leader. As the Associate Youth Pastor at Zion Hill Christian Fellowship Church of New Iberia, Jonathan helped launch the youth empowerment movement known as Futures Inspired by Youths with Aim (F.I.Y.A.). Each year, F.I.Y.A holds a five-day conference that focuses on reaching out to and impacting the lives of young people from a variety of cultures. Jonathan hopes that the conference allows participants to aim high and accomplish their dreams.

"As we embrace Black History Month, I would love to see the African American community essentially explore areas of empowerment beyond historic insight,” Jonathan said. “Although, it's important that we know where we come from, I also believe it is imperative we realize where we are at this present moment. Tobacco is one of those ailments that plague our society, and I hope that, through education, I’ll be able to motivate my peers to become more attentive to the dangers associated with tobacco use and exposure."

This Black History Month, take a moment to encourage a loved one to quit, educate community members about the harmful effects of tobacco or support youth like Jonathan who are working within the community to make a difference. For those African Americans who are looking to quit smoking, visit to download a free online quit-smoking plan and join a community of individuals who are working to break tobacco addiction. Together we can strive to end the long historic role that tobacco has played within the African American community.

Legacy helps people live longer, healthier lives by building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Legacy’s proven-effective and nationally recognized public education programs include truth®, the national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. To learn more about Legacy’s life-saving programs, visit  

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