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Teen activists a rising force against smoking

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Most recently, that reckoning has come to California beach communities.

In March, 10 years after California set a national precedent by banning smoking in restaurants, the city of Solana Beach became the first California town to ban smoking at the beach - creating a wave of national and local interest that has led to similar laws in Santa Monica, San Clemente, and Los Angeles. Behind the charge: a group of teens - the Youth Tobacco Prevention Corps - who began lobbying three coastal cities more than two years ago.

"Teens have been taking the lead on this issue and been successful where adults have failed," says Jim Walker, director of Stop Tobacco Abuse of Minors Pronto (STAMP).

Ms. Erpenbeck, munching on pizza with friends outside city hall, says her backyard has become an ashtray, and she wants to do something about it.

For its part, Philip Morris USA does not think banning smoking on the beaches addresses the issue of littering. "We actually have an antilitter message on each cigarette package and encourage increasing the number of ashtrays on beaches and other outdoor locales," says Jennifer Golisch, spokeswoman for Philip Morris USA.

In the past, teens might have balked at challenging organizations like Philip Morris for fear of being labeled a goody-two-shoes.

"We don't get too many people frowning at what we do," says Ms. Erpenbeck, president of her high school chapter of Earth Resource Foundation. "I don't really know many peers who smoke, but in any case we don't care what these people think. We've grown beyond that in our club."

Some observers say this shrug against traditional peer pressure is largely the result of 15 years of "service learning" that became the rage of school curriculums beginning in the late 1980s.

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