While most teens are out riding the waves, eating ice cream, and catching up on their summer flings, there is a group that is changing the world. Vans Warped Tour has for years, been a place of great music, and even better connections, but there is a group adding to the hum of conversation that pervades large festivals just like this one. This group is the Truth Campaign, their message is simple: Finish it.
The Truth Campaign, started in 1999, is a group that is dedicated to making this the generation to “Finish It.” This is a youth movement to help end teen smoking, and Danielle Sloane is helping lead the charge. Danielle, the tour manager for truth, and previous rider herself, has a huge passion for helping teens understand the damage smoking can do and the ways it can end your life. She doesn’t just talk the talk, she actually started smoking at the age of 16, and has since quit because of the Truth Campaign. Facts like, “One out of three smokers will eventually die of a smoke related disease,” moved her to action. Not to mention, seeing the first hand effects smoking has played in her life, and watching her father, a life-long smoker, recover from a smoking related illness recently, she knows that these are statistics that can change someone’s life. “I really think that Truth saved my life,” she adds.
With so many facts out there about the damages of smoking and the ways it can affect the younger generation, why is it still an issue for so many? Well, it could be because “Big Tobacco” spends an average of millions of dollars a day on marketing, as well as taking advantage of unpaid marketers. If you have ever liked a photo of a friend or celebrity smoking, then you have contributed to social marketing. Although, the Truth Campaign, and many projects like it, have made a substantial impact on the cause, right now the teen smoking rate stands at a mere eight percent. Even 70 percent claim they want to quit, but somehow never manage to make a change.
Danielle says, “It has been fascinating to see the difference between 2010 to 2015. Coming back to the warped tour between those years, there is a significant decrease between the number of teens who are smoking … that has been a tangible difference.” She goes on to say, “There are a lot less teens with cigarettes in their hands as we speak to them, and teens who say ‘I never smoke and I never will’.” She has seen the impact up close and personal, and believes that we could truly be the generation to put a stop to teen smoking once and for all.
“I was in Chicago a couple of months after the warped tour ended, and this girl came up to me and dumped her purse out in front of me. I didn’t really know what she was doing, but she said, ‘Do you see? Look, that’s my entire purse and there are no cigarettes in it. I met you two months ago at the warped tour. You guys made me feel really good about myself and showed me that I don’t need to do that anymore, and I haven’t smoked a cigarette since.’ That for me was one of the most moving experiences of my life.’ They understand that real and progressive change will take a lot more than a few statistics, but change will come by giving people a reason to understand the important role they play in this generation and the next.
While this is serious business for Danielle and so many of the riders, they also try to have fun with the people who visit their truck at the different tour stops. “Truth is about being current and cutting edge, while also trying to be informative. We’ve got a DJ, and all of the latest [trendy] merchandise. We try
and combine that fun experience that makes the teens feel good about themselves. We put facts inside every piece of merchandise we distribute.”
It is empowering to see people not only working for change, but truly believing that there is a way change can happen. It’s not simply about saying it, but stepping out in action. For anyone still struggling to kick the habit, or find their place in the world, Danielle says, “We can be the generation that ends teen smoking. You can shine and spread your positivity to others and make the world a better place.”
Feature Image: Stuart Williams