Interact for Health

Q&A: Amy Barkley, regional director Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

(Aug 14th, 2017)

Amy Barkley is the regional director for the Tobacco States and Mid-Atlantic Region at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which advocates for laws that prevent kids from using tobacco products, help tobacco users quit and protect people from secondhand smoke. Barkley spoke with Interact for Health about the lessons learned from her time with the Campaign.
Amy Barkley

Interact for Health: Could you explain more about the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and its goals?

Amy Barkley: We are the nation's largest not-for-profit organization specifically devoted to preventing and reducing tobacco use. We advocate for laws at the local, state and federal level that are proven to prevent kids from smoking and using other tobacco products, help tobacco users quit through better health care access, and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.

Our work is really all about supporting the local and state organizations on the ground, and offering them all kinds of technical assistance and support.

Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned as a leader in the organization and what positive results have you seen?

Barkley: There has been an enormous amount of progress in reducing tobacco use across the country, and our organization, along with our partners, has worked to make an impact on smoking rates and identify what types of efforts are most effective. For instance, we have seen smoking rates fall in states that are passing tobacco tax increases; that have 100% smoke-free workplaces and public places; that fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs; and that operate according to CDC's best practices.

Interact for Health: What accomplishments of the organization are you most proud of?

Barkley: I think we've been a leading force in driving down smoking rates to historic lows. One major accomplishment is getting FDA authority over tobacco products. Raising tobacco taxes at the state level to the point where the average state cigarette tax is $1.69 a pack also has been a huge accomplishment. That said, tobacco taxes in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana all fall below the national average, and will be a major priority for us in coming years.

Interact for Health: Could you tell me a brief story that illustrates the effect of your organization in a local community?

Barkley: I have a few states in my region that have relatively low smoking rates, such as, New Jersey and Maryland, where they do a really good job with tobacco control policies, such as higher taxes and smoke-free areas, but my other states -- Ohio, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia -- are not implementing the policies that we know work, and therefore have much higher smoking and tobacco use rates. To help lower smoking rates in Kentucky, we are going to be working with advocates all across the state to raise the tax by a dollar or more to bring it closer to the national average.

Interact for Health: What about your work excites you or is most fulfilling?

Barkley: I find it gratifying to work with a wide array of community groups at the local and state level, working together on this issue because it really is our number one cause of death, most costly public health problem, at all levels. And it is one of the few issues in life that is truly black and white. We are on the side of science and health and what the public wants. And on the other side is the tobacco industry that's actively working to recruit young people to be replacement smokers for their customers.