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Abe Baker-Butler, 18
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HEALTH AND SAFETY36 Under 36 2020

Abe Baker-Butler, 18

Teen vs. Nicotine

What you do:

I cofounded Students Against Nicotine (SAN), a 501(c)3 student-led nonprofit that prevents teen substance use through legislative advocacy. Through our peer-to-peer “Escape the Vape” escape room-style workshops, we reach thousands of teens and adults nationally with our e-cigarette prevention message. While much remains to be done, my efforts through SAN have begun to reverse the tide of vaping in Westchester and New York State.

In the wake of the Parkland massacre, I cofounded a group of passionate teens to advocate for gun safety legislation. In this capacity, I moderated/planned forums between New York State Senate and congressional candidates; collaborated on reports documenting teen opinions on gun safety in the county and the effects of lockdown drills; and strove to keep gun safety a front-burner issue in political discourse.

I am also the New York lead and recruitment coordinator for Telehealth Access for Seniors, a student-led nonprofit working in over 20 states to collect old iPhones, iPads, chargers and other smart devices to donate to medical practices and Veterans’ Hospitals for use by older patients in need. Many clinicians are operating via telehealth appointments to avoid risk of Covid-19 infection, and many older patients lack the smart devices needed to actually “attend” these appointments. Our goal is to encourage the adoption of telehealth to protect seniors’ health, improve access to care and repurpose unused old devices. 

Unexpected fun fact:

I am an avid sandcastle builder, a devoted dog walker, a jazz saxophonist and an avocado enthusiast.

Quote to live by:

“It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but neither are you free to desist from it” (Rabbi Tarfon, Pirkei Avot 2:16)

How I got here:

As high school began, I saw my friends become entangled in the embrace of youth-friendly, addictive, nicotine-laden e-cigarettes. I was shocked as I watched them fall behind in school and social life, victims of a national epidemic, and I wanted to prevent the same downward spiral for others. In response to my friends’ and peers’ growing addiction to e-cigarettes, I saw the potential for student-led advocacy and cofounded a nonprofit to address this growing need, long before most adults were taking action.

How does your Jewish identity/Jewish values influence the work that you do?

My Jewish beliefs, dynamic yet consistent, are the most important part of my personhood. They continually animate my actions and inspire me to enrich my community and address societal ills, through political, scientific and educational pursuits. As I have grown, my Judaism has grown with me, an everlasting inspiration that will continue to guide me in college and beyond. I am proud to be Jewish because I view Judaism as a trusted mentor, inspiring me to act and helping me to evaluate my actions against an ancient, yet timeless, set of traditions and values.

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