How Youths in REBEL are Fighting Big Tobacco


Reaching Everyone by Exposing Lies (REBEL) is an anti-tobacco program for young adults based in New Jersey. REBEL’s motto, “my mind, my body, my choice” is synonymous with a healthy youth and supporting non-smoking norms (i). The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs sponsors the group. The group is funded through the The Master Settlement, which was an agreement, in 1998 (ii), between big tobacco companies and 46 of the 50 states, including New Jersey. The funding is specifically codified in Section 3, Responsibilities of tobacco product manufacturer (iv). The New Jersey statute lays out how the tobacco companies have to fund organizations such as REBEL. The Tobacco Master Agreement, as it is named in case law (v) led to the Smoke-Free Air Act (iii).

Smoke-free Air Act (iii)

The Smoke-free Air Act (2006) is a piece of legislation in 46 of the 50 states that bans smoking in public places. The legislature made five significant findings for why the ban came into existence. These findings include:

a. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the State and the nation;

b. Tobacco smoke constitutes a substantial health hazard to the nonsmoking majority of the public;

c. Electronic smoking devices have not been approved as to safety and efficacy by the federal Food and Drug Administration, and their use may pose a health risk to persons exposed to their smoke or vapor because of a known irritant contained therein and other substances that may, upon evaluation by that agency, be identified as potentially toxic to those inhaling the smoke or vapor;

d. The separation of smoking and nonsmoking areas in indoor public places and workplaces does not eliminate the hazard to nonsmokers if these areas share a common ventilation system; and

e. Therefore, subject to certain specified exceptions, it is clearly in the public interest to prohibit the smoking of tobacco products and the use of electronic smoking devices in all enclosed indoor places of public access and workplaces. (vi)

The legislature stepped its foot down and slammed smoking in public spaces. Exceptions to the Smoke-free Air Act exist.


After the entire New Jersey Smoke-free Air Act was repealed, the New Jersey legislature had to make compromises to the legislation. These compromises are illustrated in section 59 of the smoke-free air act (vii). These exceptions include cigar bars and lounges, tobacco retail establishments, any tobacco business, private homes, residences, and automobiles, and any casino facility approved by the Casino Control Commission that has at least 150 slot machines and 10 table games (vii). Section 57 further defined what an indoor public place means as well as other definitions relevant to smoking (iii). Section 60 highlights that a hotel, motel, or other lodging establishment can permit smoking in up to 20% of its patrons’ rooms (iii).

REBEL formation

In 2002, REBEL became a pilot program in NJ, operating in high schools in 10 counties (xiv). Because of its success, the program expanded to the other 11 counties in NJ in 2006. Today, REBEL exists in large numbers, over 200 chapters are in existence in NJ high schools and middle schools (xiv). Each REBEL chapter must maintain at least 15 youths per school. The REBEL Tobacco Prevention Initiative is funded through the NJ Dep’t of Health and Senior services as well as the NJ Cigarette Tax (xv). REBEL2 was created to support middle school students in their fight against tobacco as well (xvi). Schools receive up to $2,000 from the state for both programs (xvii).

Great American Smoke-out

REBEL participates annually in the Great American Smokeout (viii), which is an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society that encourages smokers to use the date of the event to plan to quit, even if for only one day. The Great American Smokeout is held on the third Thursday every November, and it came to fruition on November 18, 1976, when the California Division of the American Cancer Society got one million smokers to stop smoking for one day (xviii). The first ever Smokeout occurred on November 16, 1977 at San Francisco’s Union Square. The Great American Smokeout coupled with efforts by organizations like REBEL and through the American Cancer Society have led to numerous laws being passed, such as the 1990 federal smoking ban on buses and domestic flights, the 1999 MSA (mentioned above), and the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (xviii).

Other events that REBEL often participates in include the World No Tobacco Day (ix), Kick Butts Day (x), the REBEL’s Tobacco Learning Institute (xi), and the State Summit at Six Flags amusement park (xii). These activities show how committed REBEL is to the fight against smoking, especially smoking in youths.

Dwindling Funding

As of 2010, the funding for REBEL and other anti-smoking causes has nearly dried up in New Jersey (xix). It ranked 50th out of the 50 United States in state funding for tobacco awareness programs. Even though the number of smokers in New Jersey decreased 10% in the eight years of anti-tobacco programming, the funding dissipated (xix). REBEL is now a subsidiary of New Jersey Breathes, a coalition of anti-tobacco organizations in the state (xx). Finally, in 2011, Governor Christie eliminated all tobacco prevention and control funds for the fiscal year budget, which eliminated funding for the 12,000 students at over 300 high schools who are a part of REBEL (xxi). Because of the lack of funding, the website was bought by a German company, and the remnants of the organization barely exists on the internet and elsewhere. It is now up to individual schools to continue the legacy.


The legislature in New Jersey took action to improve the quality of life for its individuals by passing the smoke-free air act. This act has curtailed smoking in most public areas and limited the exposure of smoking on youth. REBEL is a youth-powered organization that attempts to inhibit youth from beginning to smoke, as research has shown that most smokers start before age 18 (xiii). REBEL fights the good fight for youth everyone and is a role-model organization for schools and areas across the country to fight the negative impact of smoking on youth. Even though funding has been eliminated, individual schools have taken it upon themselves to continue to offer REBEL and REBEL2 programs for high schoolers and middle schoolers who wish to dissuade their peers from using tobacco.


(i) Camden County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Inc. (2009). REBEL. Reaching Everyone by Exposing Lies

(ii) N.J. Stat. § 52:4D-1-13 (1999).

(iii) N.J. Stat. § 26:3D-55-64 (2006).

(iv) N.J. Stat. § 52:4D-3 (1999).

(v) Star Sci., Inc. v. Beales, 278 F.3d 339 (4th Cir. 2002).

(vi) N.J. Stat. § 26:3D-56 (2006).

(vii) N.J. Stat. § 26:3D-59 (2006).

(viii) Berman, Z. (n.d.) Great American smokeout engages youth. Bergen County Department of Health Services. Retrieved from Accessed on February 23, 2013; REBEL Great American Smokeout (2010). Retrieved from Accessed on February 23, 2013; Rothschild, B. (2002). Students rebel against smoking. South Jersey News. Retrieved from Accessed on February 23, 2013.

(ix) REBEL Students of Somerset County (2006). World No Tobacco Day Activity. Retrieved from Accessed on February 23, 2013.

(x) The Messenger-Gazette (2010). Immaculata High School participates in ‘kick butts day’ anti-smoking campaign. The Messenger-Gazette Education section. Retrieved from; Hague, J. (2004). They’re kicking butts and taking names: North Bergen REBEL students try to stop others from smoking on ‘Kick Butts’ day. Hudson Reporter. Retrieved from; State of New Jersey Department of Health (2008). New Jersey Youth REBEL against tobacco on kick butts day. Press Releases. Retrieved from

(xi) New Jersey DHSS (2007). Coordinated School Health Program Directory. Retrieved from; RTLI (2008). Retrieved from

(xii) Snapshots (2001). REBEL. Retrieved from

(xiii) World Health Organization (2002). Global Smoking Statistics.

(xiv) Prevention Links. (n.d.). REBEL and REBEL2 High school and middle school tobacco prevention initiative programs. 

(xv) N.J. Stat. § 26:2H-18.58g (2006).

(xvi) Safe Coalition. (n.d.). Rebel & Rebel 2.

(xvii) Willow Tree Center. (2008). Letter of agreement: 2008-2009. Retrieved from

(xviii) American Cancer Society. (2013). History of the Great American Smokeout. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from

(xix) NJ Breathes. (2010). New Jersey poised to win ‘race to the bottom’ in state anti-tobacco funding. New Jersey Breathes. Retrieved from

(xx) Tobacco Free Kids (n.d.) Tobacco Prevention really works! Retrieved from

(xxi) New Jersey Breathes (2011). About New Jersey Breathes. Retrieved from

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