A Paducah-area high-school junior has been named a Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion for advocating for policies that help prevent youth tobacco use, after she was addicted to electronic cigarettes as a freshman.
Abby Hefner, a junior at McCracken County High School, received the award from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which gives it to recognize individuals and organizations engaged in improving the health of people in their communities and/or the state through policy change.
She was nominated by Dr. Pat Withrow of Paducah, is a member of the foundation’s board of directors. “Once kicking the habit associated with nicotine addiction, she has become one of the most effective, positive peer forces in advocacy against tobacco,” Withrow said. “She has carried her message not only locally but throughout the state of Kentucky and nationally.”
Hefner spoke at a Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow rally in the state Capitol in January in support raising the legal age for tobacco-product sales to 21, and for an excise tax on e-cigarettes, or “vapes,” as the industry calls them. Both bills passed.
Lauren Williams, sponsor of the Taking Down Tobacco program at McCracken County High School, in which Hefner participates, said Hefner “also performs positive peer teaching to students at McCracken County High School, Reidland Elementary School, and Concord and Heath Elementary Schools about the dangers of using e-cigarettes. She also has appeared in a video created by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids about the lure of kid-friendly e-cigarette flavors.”
Hefner is now eligible for the Gil Friedell Health Policy Champion award, which comes with a $5,000 grant from the Foundation to be given to a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner’s choice. The winner of the Friedell award will be announced later this month.
Nominations for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Award are accepted at any time.