Youth in the Policymaking Process by Cali W., Portales HS

My name is Cali Walker and I am a junior from Portales High in southeast New Mexico. This will be my third year with the Evolvement program and my second on the leadership team. Being a part of this program has allowed me to grow my skills in many areas, including my confidence levels. This confidence has allowed me to participate in many community awareness-building events with Evolvement. This past fall, I got the chance to represent the program at my town’s annual Peanut Valley Festival.   

At the festival, I worked alongside my peers in this program at a booth. Here, we had conversations with people as they passed though the event, about anti-tobacco policies. We stressed the importance of having strong such policies to not only ensure that all the effects of tobacco are understood, but to also keep tobacco products away and out of the hands of our youth. With the No Minor Sale campaign, our main goal was to push for New Mexico to require a tobacco retail license. This would mean that tobacco retailers in New Mexico would be required to apply for a license and upon approval, they then are able to legally to sell tobacco products at their stores. At the time of that event, there was no policy to enforce this, meaning it was harder to track where and by who tobacco was being sold. This made it near impossible to hold retailers accountable when tobacco is sold to minors.

More recently, on March 4th, 2020, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 131. This is other otherwise known as the Tobacco Products Act, which contains state-wide Tobacco Retail Licensing, the policy that this campaign has been advocating for. This law will go into effect at the first of January this upcoming year. This law defines tobacco products as the following: cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, snuff, e-cigarettes/ including Juuls.

Education is the most empowering tool you can possess. This policy passing is a huge win for New Mexico and it aims to promote awareness and the importance of knowledge. With the work I have done, this program has given me the resources and power to advocate for tobacco control and educate those around me. I have seen the positive impact getting involved and speaking out for policy changes has had on my peers and my community. These changes we are advocating for will go a far way for the betterment of our future.

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