Tobacco Control in Alaska: North to the Future

Gustavo Torrez, Program Manager
The Network for LGBT Health Equity 
My Time in Alaska…



All I can say is WOW things have been busy…. I wanted to take a moment to recap on my time in Alaska for a moment. As you may have read in my last post I was an invited keynote speaking in Nome, Alaska. Home of the finish line for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Nome is truly a small town. Located next to the the Bering Sea, which was frozen as far as I could see (which was an amazing sight!), Nome’s population is around 3500 people.  

Nome was truly a charm, but I have to say, it is always amazing to speak at a conference with passionate, focused, and driven folks working hard to eliminate tobacco disparities in their community. As an invited speaker for the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) statewide tobacco control summit, I took the job to heart. As some of you may know I have family in Alaska and the folks working to protect their community from secondhand smoke are protecting my family as well. So for me to see the commitment that participants had to their work was such a joy.

My first day in Nome, I had the opportunity to sit in on their ATCA steering committee meeting. Made up of representatives from each of the seven regions, this committee’s passion is unfound in most. Day two, I had the joy of working with the young people at the summit. As a former youth advocate I understand the importance of young people in this movement..and these young people were outstanding! After 3 and a half hours I was a bit tired but we had a great time. I spoke about my journey in tobacco control, my struggles, and my commitment which has led me to be where I am today. We worked on a group activity “I AM” where the youth created a page on who they were and presented it back to the group. The pages were compiled and made into a fun booklet for them to take home.

Day three was jammed packed…. I started the morning doing a keynote address with my friend Dan Carrigan, from Americans for Non Smokers Rights. We spoke on expanding  reach and utilizing partnerships to advance your movement. Shortly after, I had a Lunch Keynote: Reaching Community Through Online and Social Media Platforms. Following that I had back to back workshops titled Coalition Building: Uniting A Community To Take Action. Overall, I felt great about my time at the conference. As folks in Alaska gear up for a smoke free Alaska campaign, you can feel the excitement and passion as they utilize the conference to get ready for the road ahead. I look forward to our continued work with all of these amazing folks!

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