Pierz teen-ager chosen to attend anti-tobacco conference in Italy
ST. PAUL -- A teen-ager from Pierz in central Minnesota is one of two American youths selected by the World Health Organization to attend an anti-tobacco conference in Italy.
Simon Stumpf, 17, a Healy High School senior, is one of only 10 young people chosen worldwide to help the U.N. agency develop a model initiative for international youth programs.
Stumpf earned the April 13-19 trip to Florence with his winning essay for the St. Paul-based Target Market, a statewide youth tobacco prevention campaign funded by the state's tobacco settlement money. WHO asked the group to nominate teens for the world conference.
Target Market responded with an open call asking its members to enter essays, videos, artwork or music on the topic, "Should there be marketing restrictions on the tobacco industry?"
Stumpf is on the group's executive committee and has been involved in the Smoke-Free Coalition, a collection of education, health and community groups. He was a recipient of the 2000 National Youth Advocate of the Year Award from the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and helped to start a Kick Butts anti-smoking group in his community.
He also is an academic achiever and workaholic. He is class president at Pierz Healy but takes all of his classes nearby at Central Lakes College in Brainerd under the state's postsecondary enrollment options law.
Stumpf traces his anti-tobacco efforts to the respiratory problems his younger brother suffered as a child. His brother couldn't be exposed to smoke. Even though no one in his household smoked, he began to realize the danger posed by tobacco smoke and how the industry deceptively pitches its products to the young, he said.
"They have been targeting teens with everything from chocolate and honey ingredients in cigarettes to advertising cigarettes in cartoons and sports," he said.
The goal of Target Market "is to expose the lies, and from there hopefully, teens will become passionate enough to quit," Stumpf said.