Nyla Jackson - Elkhart, Elkhart County

Nyla Jackson, age 15, moved from Chicago to Elkhart with her mother and sister when she was in the sixth grade. Her family roots are in Chicago, and she still misses the noise of the city. One of her mementos is a photo of her deceased grandmother, Miss Red.

“She was called Miss Red because she was so light-skinned, she would turn red in the sun. She passed away from a heart attack because she smoked so many cigarettes. I keep her photo above my bed. It is of her and my dad in front of a fountain in Chicago.”

Nyla recently learned more about how the tobacco industry markets to children while attending a youth-training event.

“The tobacco industry targets little kids. They put advertisements below waist level, so little kids can see it and point at it. I never realized.” School is important to Nyla. Her favorite subject is math, and she aspires to either own a hair salon or be a doctor. At Concord High School, she has gone through whole-day trainings on gun violence prevention, but little on tobacco—something she hopes to help change.

“I think we should have a whole day where we talk about tobacco, play games, watch videos, and have people speak about their stories.” Although she is skeptical that increasing the minimum age of purchase from 18 to 21 will prevent youth smoking, she thinks raising the cigarette tax will work, noting the trade-offs she and her friends make between purchases like food, clothes, shoes, and gifts.

“Smoking is bad for people. If we can make it more expensive, they can stop. We are trying to help their health.”

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