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Ramping Up to Ramp Down Tobacco Access

YLI’s Tobacco Use Reduction Force (TURF) team of youth is on a mission to limit the number of tobacco retailers in San Francisco’s low-income communities.

“We’ve done the research and there are more tobacco outlets in communities with large populations of immigrants, people of color and youth than in other areas of San Francisco,” says TURF trainer, Catherine-Mercedes Judge. “These are communities that often lack the resources and advocacy skills to overturn harmful practices that damage their community’s health.”


TURF youth have spent months researching how to go about forming a strong policy recommendation to cap the density of retailers to be consistent city-wide. They have:

  • Studied similar laws that have recently passed in four California counties and interviewed the public health professionals who wrote them;
  • Discovered that the six districts with the highest percentage of tobacco retailer density also have the lowest median household incomes in the city;
  • Found there were 11,352,071 packs of cigarettes sold in the city last year;
  • Researched the political climate of San Francisco to gauge what policy would be most feasible;
  • Visited San Francisco’s tax collector’s office, learning that small retail food shops sell more than half of the tobacco in the city;
  • Talked to attorneys on general advice about creating a strong policy;
  • Presented their campaign to a graduate class at UCSF and several San Francisco high schools; and
  • Taken a field trip to Stanford University where they interviewed tobacco control experts, Senior Research Scientist Lisa Henriksen and Associate Director for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Ellen Feighery.


At Stanford, TURF asked the researchers for their advice on what they should target for their policy. Their dialogue helped shape the direction for the team as they learned that:

  • Fees for tobacco retailers in San Francisco and California are significantly cheaper than those for alcohol retailers despite tobacco causing more deaths;
  • Big tobacco’s incentives for retailers make it more lucrative for store owners to sell tobacco than other products.


Their work in the community has already garnered the attention of the media.

TURF also formed an international partnership supporting the work of the non-profit organization, Framework Convention Alliance on Tobacco Control Philippines (FCAP). The goal is to implement national tobacco control policy in the Philippines. TURF and FCAP are currently working on a joint action plan that will incorporate young people from each respective group.

The goals of TURF are two-fold, including both external tobacco awareness and policy change, while also developing each team member as a young leader. 
TURF is more than just an internship, we are a family,” says TURF member Malaysia Sander. “Our program coordinator is always linking us with educational and professional opportunities in addition to what we do at TURF. We check in at a very personal level and the team supports each other in all aspects of our lives."
What’s Next
TURF is currently compiling their research for public consumption, finalizing the details on their proposed policy and will soon meet with elected officials and stakeholders to start the momentum to pass their policy.
Learn more about TURF’s ongoing work at or