Henry Philofsky is the Western Regional Director at the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation. Henry and the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation are important and dedicated partners of the AHA’s on our Tobacco 21 for Oregon campaign. We wanted to share his story with you and a little bit more about the important work we are doing together.
What campaign do you partner with the AHA on?
I work with AHA on raising the age at which people can buy tobacco products to 21. The Tobacco 21 campaign is currently developing in many cities, counties and towns, and more are exploring it every day. We are gaining momentum, and with continued effort by the many organizations working on this issue, hopefully someday America will have Tobacco 21 nationwide.
Why is this particular issue important to you?
I work on tobacco issues for a few reasons. It’s the number one cause of preventable death in America, which leads to tragedy for many families, but also costs billions of dollars to the healthcare system that could be going to treat other unavoidable diseases. Additionally, there is an entire industry committed to selling tobacco to anyone and everyone they possibly can with a history of targeting children. This seems so perverse and unjust that I feel the need to try and help in some way.
Why do you advocate alongside the American Heart Association?
Working with AHA is a blessing. It is a fantastic association staffed with great advocates and staff. I also very much appreciate the mission of the organization and the steps that AHA takes to carry out that mission. Working with AHA on their Advocacy Day in Salem, Oregon was really cool to see. Everyone was very informed, committed and persuasive when speaking to legislators, and it was great to see such an organized and concerted effort in support of AHA’s mission.
Describe a challenge you’ve faced—and why you haven’t given up:
The biggest challenge for me in doing tobacco work is that much of the public and way too many elected officials no longer think that tobacco is a problem in America. I am regularly told “we solved that problem” which couldn’t be further from the truth. The tobacco control effort in America has made great strides due to the efforts of many advocates and organizations, but tobacco is still the leading cause in preventable death in America and more work is needed.
Would you recommend to someone else that they get involved? Who? Why? How?
I think anyone who cares about their own health or that of their family should get involved in advocacy and AHA is a great place to do it. Even for people who don’t smoke, tobacco still affects them either through second or third hand smoke, sick family members or other economic interests that are negatively affected by tobacco. AHA provides a fantastic service to the public in that they coordinate public involvement in the political process, allowing those with similar views to have a more sizeable impact on public policy than they might have individually.