ABOUT THE SPEAKER

LA TANISHA C. WRIGHT - CEO, public speaker, and author - is an internationally known, nationally acclaimed Tobacco Control and Anti-Bullying Advocate. In three years, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She obtained an outstanding academic record that included participation in programs offered by NASA and the NAACP, and was a consistent member of the honor roll and Dean’s list. Upon graduation of college in 2000, she worked as a high school mathematics teacher in Charleston, South Carolina.

 
In 2001, she pursued career opportunities in Detroit, Michigan with Brown & Williamson (B&W) Tobacco Company. She took on multiple roles as a Trade Marketing Manager and Controlling Manager. She quickly developed expertise in tobacco industry marketing, advertising, and merchandising. Ms. Wright obtained exceptional knowledge of the tobacco industry’s strategy of demographic targeting, retail contracts, and strategic product placement. In 2003, she received a promotion and was transferred to Atlanta, Georgia to restore and increase market share in an urban territory.

In 2004, B&W launched the KOOL MIXX campaign, a campaign that clearly targeted African American youth. Unbeknownst to Ms. Wright, it was a violation of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which prohibits the tobacco industry from targeting youth. In May 2004, Ms. Wright clandestinely briefed Attorneys General and a national tobacco prevention agency on the KOOL MIXX campaign, which resulted in a settlement where RJ Reynolds (RJR) agreed to pay $1.46 million to four non-profit organizations.

B&W and RJR merged in September 2004, and Ms. Wright was offered a position with RJR. She rejected the offer and shortly after began her journey in public health. After realizing the critical need for more aggressive tobacco control efforts at the tobacco retail level, Ms. Wright founded Follow the Signs (FTS). The mission of FTS is to 1) reduce tobacco-related disease, disability, and death by increasing awareness of tobacco industry retail marketing aimed at increasing tobacco use, youth access to tobacco, and nicotine addiction; and to 2) motivate youth and adults to practice resilience while enduring stress, bullying, abusive/unhealthy relationships, and other life challenges.

From 2011-2013, Ms. Wright served as the tobacco subject matter expert and public health advisor for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Division of Community Health, as well as a senior consultant with the CDC’s Office of Smoking & Health. In 2013, she testified against Big Tobacco in support of proposed tobacco bans designed to protect New York City youth, retailers, and citizens from predatory tobacco marketing. She was also prominently featured in a film exposing Big Tobacco’s global marketing to youth titled Big Tobacco, Young Targets. The film was directed by an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker, and produced by Canal+ (France's equivalent of HBO). The documentary premiered in 40 countries across Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. From 2012-2015, she served as an Advisory Committee Member for the University of Southern California Tobacco Center for Regulatory Sciences.

Ms. Wright has been described as one of the foremost experts on predatory tobacco industry retail marketing tactics. She has trained tens-of-thousands of tobacco control advocates representing federal, state, and local agencies with diverse tobacco control objectives that serve various communities. In 2015, she published her memoir titled, Corporate Bullying Saved My Life: Overcoming Life’s Challenges (click here for additional information). Not only has she inspired a more aggressive fight to end the global tobacco epidemic, she has motivated youth and adults to overcome life’s challenges in order to make a difference in the lives of others.