The National Conference on Tobacco or Health
The National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTOH) is one of the largest, long-standing gatherings for top United States tobacco control professionals. The conference attracts a diverse group of public health professionals, researchers, and anyone interested in examining the latest evidence on best practices in tobacco control and how to apply current research findings to tobacco control policy, advocacy, and programs. Furthermore, NCTOH provides a way to explore practical ways to improve tobacco control programs and activities across the United States. As the Tobacco Control Youth Programs Manager at Breathe, I was honored to be invited to present at such a prestigious conference!
On Monday, June 27th, 2022, I embarked on my weeklong trip to New Orleans, Louisiana joining over 2,000 other NCTOH attendees. This was my second time attending NCTOH, however, it would be my first time presenting on a panel at a national conference. When I arrived in New Orleans, I headed straight to the Hyatt Regency Hotel which was not only where I stayed for the week, but conveniently, it was the location of where the conference took place. As I walked into the hotel, I noticed a gigantic banner displayed between 2 escalators which read, “National Conference on Tobacco or Health 2022”, and I couldn’t help but feel a rush of excitement for the coming week.
As the week unfolded, I had the opportunity to sit in on numerous thought provoking presentations and panel discussions, network with other tobacco control advocates and public health professionals from across the country, as well as meet our Smoke-Free Screens project partners in person for the first time. As far as presentations and panel discussions, I took the opportunity to attend all the presentations and breakouts that were heavily focused on working and engaging youth in tobacco control since that is the focus of my work at Breathe. My favorite presentation that I attended was facilitated by youth tobacco control advocates. Young people are essential partners for implementing tobacco control strategies, and one critical feature that supports effective engagement is hearing directly from youth on what works for them. I learned more about how involving youth in your tobacco control work can increase adults’ commitment to tobacco control, build public support for tobacco control efforts, enhance the credibility of tobacco control programs, add unique skills such as digital and social media expertise, and add a vital perspective when learning about the community’s tobacco control patterns, access to commercial tobacco products, and support for tobacco control.
One of the main highlights from my week was getting the opportunity to meet our project partners from the Truth Initiative and NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) aka “The Dream Team”. Prior to our team’s panel discussion, I was invited out to a rooftop meet and greet that overlooked the city of New Orleans. What a treat! At the meet and greet, there was live music, wine and hors d’oeuvres, and I really had the opportunity to get to know each of our project partners on a more personal level. At the meet and greet, I met and bonded with my project partner, Nada Adibah, from NORC. We discovered that we both enjoy eating good food and dining at new places, so for the remainder of the week, we met for lunch and dinner to try out some well-established New Orleans restaurants. Let me just say, there are some amazing restaurants in New Orleans, and they are extremely affordable to boot!
The greatest highlight of the week by far though was when our Smoke-Free Screens team met and presented on the relationship between exposure to tobacco imagery in movies and smoking initiation, namely among youth and young adults. Our panel was comprised of Dr. Jessica Rath from Truth Initiative who provided an overview of the change in tobacco and media landscape, Nada Adibah, from NORC who presented the data from our 2020 smoking in movies report, Dr. Jessica Kreslake from Truth Initiative who reported on the findings from a tobacco in music video study, Kristy Marynak who is the Lead Public Health Analyst at the Center for Disease Control and took on the role as our discussant, and myself, who provided an overview on how movies are selected to review for tobacco and the overall methodology used to code tobacco imagery on screens. There were 104 attendees that sat in on our presentation, and the overall feedback after the presentation was overwhelming and inspiring. Furthermore, there was a youth tobacco control advocate in the audience that was intrigued by our program and since the conference, she has become a member of our movie data collection program!
At the end of the week, I couldn’t wait to return home to hit the ground running with rethinking and looking at our youth engagement work under a new lens and incorporating some of the knowledge that was bestowed upon me at the conference. I’m truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend and present at the 2022 NCTOH in New Orleans and represent Breathe in the process. The overall experience was informative, empowering, and one that I will remember for years to come!