By: Ami Gelman
On November 30th, eight teens on UpRise’s Youth Action Board attended a retreat at the Brown Palace in Denver, Colorado, where the board enjoyed a “weekend of team building, goofing off, learning and educating, and making new friends.” However, they also discussed business and began planning an advocacy event for this coming spring.
UpRise is Colorado’s Social Justice Tobacco Control Movement. Its mission is to “amplify the passion of Colorado’s young people in order to expose the dangerous practices of the tobacco industry and increase awareness about why many [young people] use nicotine and other substances.”
According to UpRises’s website, its core includes 21 youth coalitions, a Youth Action Board, an Adult Advisory Board, and UpRise staff. The Youth Action Board members represent more than 12 cities in Colorado.
One of UpRise’s main goals is to highlight Colorado’s “young people’s passion to shift perspectives about the tobacco industry and root causes of nicotine and substance use.” The website provides resources to Colorado’s youth to allow them to better use their voices to create health equity.
UpRise does not only treat tobacco as a health issue but also as a social justice issue. According to its website “certain populations targeted by the tobacco and vape industry experience more significant impacts of tobacco use.” However, the industry also causes extreme damage to the environment, exploits governments, and maneuvers around laws designed to reduce the industry's disastrous impacts.
To better understand the tobacco industry, UpRise examines the power that the industry holds and exposes the various ways in which the tobacco industry has abused that power to create uneven rates of tobacco use, addiction, and death among different groups.
One of UpRise’s biggest goals is to identify the root causes of youth tobacco. “By identifying root causes, youth in UpRise unravel the causes of the problem of youth tobacco and nicotine use in Colorado.”
Some of the many root causes of youth tobacco use. Photo: UpRise Website.
Each UpRise coalition creates an arts-based project to elevate one of the root causes of youth tobacco use that they identified. One group created a video to inform others about how the tobacco industry misuses power. Another group presented a recorded interview with the school resource officer to the school board, where they highlighted “specific justice-related issues… for the board to hear.” Finally, one group identified that relationships with teachers were one of the root causes of tobacco and nicotine use and was invited “to provide in-service training for their teachers to strengthen relationships between teachers and students.”
UpRise also participates in community organizing. According to its website, UpRise members have brought up the need for safe youth-specific spaces in their community with their local city council. They have also talked with their school principals to highlight how student/teacher relationships can be improved and participated in press conferences with state and federal elected officials.
“[UpRise is] politically aware, civically engaged, and will challenge and change the broken systems that fail to support the health and well-being of youth.”