Sacramento, California - The California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program has awarded the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health, a $5.6 million, 56-month grant to establish the California Tobacco Endgame Center for Organizing and Engagement.

Through the new Tobacco Center for Organizing and Engagement, the American Heart Association will leverage its decades-long record of advocacy and policy success, and its expertise in community engagement and capacity-building, toward the goal of eliminating tobacco use statewide by 2035.  

“We can bring an end to the era of tobacco-caused death and illness in California by organizing and engaging our communities to pass local policies that help end the health harms and needless deaths caused by tobacco and nicotine products,” said Laura King, Principal Investigator and Director of Public Health for the American Heart Association.  “Although the use of combustible tobacco products continues to decline, Big Tobacco is working hard to addict a new generation through targeted marketing and products that appeal to children.”

The new tobacco organizing and engagement center is designed to support and build the capacity of the network of organizations and agencies throughout the state working to drive down smoking, vaping and all forms of tobacco and nicotine use.  The Tobacco Center will offer comprehensive training and technical assistance with a special focus on engaging new stakeholders.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to undertake this important task and look forward to building new partnerships and strengthening existing ones, as we work together for a healthier California,” said Kathy Rogers, Executive Vice President of the Western States for the American Heart Association.

The Center will be led by a staff team with decades of experience in California’s tobacco control movement. In addition to King, the leadership team includes: Paul Knepprath, Director, California Tobacco Center for Organization and Engagement; Eric Batch, Vice President, Advocacy for the Western States; Jamie Morgan, California Government Relations Director; Sang-Mi Oh, Vice President, Community Impact and Diversity and Inclusion for the Western States; and Adela Santana, Senior Health Programs Analyst for the Association.  

The Tobacco Endgame refers to the shifting away from “tobacco control” to “endgame strategies” that eliminate the social, political and structural constructs that allow the tobacco epidemic to continue. The California Tobacco Control Program has outlined the parameters of achieving the endgame by 2035. A March 2019 American Heart Association Presidential Advisory published in the journal Circulation outlined a path to ending tobacco and nicotine addiction. In its call to action, the Heart Association called for a first step of minimizing the use of combustible tobacco products while ensuring that products such as electronic cigarettes do not addict the next generation of young people.

One in eight California high school students use tobacco in some form, with the most used product being e-cigarettes, according to a May 2019 report by the California Department of Public Health.