Last week 2000+ public health practitioners met in Austin, Texas. No, not for Texas BBQ or a visit to the LBJ museum (although they managed to get that in, too after sessions). They joined forces for the 2017 the premier gathering of the U.S. tobacco control movement.

L to R: Jenna Brinkworth, Lindsay Amico, Ken Dahlgren, Anthony Billoni, Jonathan Chaffee, Shelly Wolanske and Julie Calvert.

We asked our staff to share their most surprising insights, aha moments or any new kernels of knowledge they picked up.

Here they are:

“I was amazed to learn that 85% of menthol users are African American. In lower socioeconomic communities menthol brands are cheaper and are more heavily advertised. This is an example of “predatory advertising.” Jenna Brinkworth, Community Engagement Coordinator, Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara

“As a youth coordinator, I really enjoyed Coordinator Camp, a program of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids I’m usually a chaperone or facilitator in my day-to-day job , so it was inspiring to meet up with colleagues from around the nation and learn about best practices for youth engagement in tobacco control, share ideas and strategize about how to mobilize youth. Shelly Wolanske, Reality Check Coordinator, Tobacco-Free Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming

“It showed me that our efforts in Western New York are visionary and effective. We are fortunate to have the talented team and resources that we have to push back against Big Tobacco in a well thought out and powerful way.” Ken Dahlgren, Community Engagement Coordinator, Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany

“After hearing from, and meeting with, many colleagues from all parts of the U.S., I find that those of us working in research, tobacco and advocacy are united in the fight against tobacco use through evidence-based policy change.” Anthony Billoni, Director, Tobacco-Free Western New York

Harlan Juster, Director of the New York State Department of Tobacco Control and TFWNY Director, Anthony Billoni, share the state’s #SeenEnoughTobacco campaign.

“I realized how lucky we are in New York State to have a funded program that allows us to work in many ways to protect our communities from tobacco use and addiction. Many other states don’t have the luxury of working on four different initiatives like we do. Sadly, their funding doesn’t allow them to do all the work that is needed. My insight: ‘Don’t take your work for granted and the grass is not always greener on the other side.’ ” Jonathan Chaffee, Reality Check Coordinator, Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany

“I’m amazed about how much a person’s environment, social status and income impact their health. For example, If you were born in a state that has a poor tobacco control grade (Texas is an F) and you have a lower income and education level, you’re much more likely to become a smoker. To me, this emphasizes the compassion that we should have for all smokers because we have no idea what originally shaped their decision to pick up smoking.” Lindsay Amico, Reality Check Coordinator, Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara