Emily Allison's grandfather died of lung cancer before she had a chance to meet him.
"That was a big cause for her to do what she does," said mother Cathleen Allison, a photographer for the Nevada Appeal.
Since she was in seventh grade, Emily Allison, now a 16-year-old Douglas High School junior, has been working with the Partnership of Community Resources, a nonprofit substance abuse prevention coalition, to educate her peers about the dangers of tobacco use.
"I've never been a big fan of smoking," she said. "It's so deadly yet so preventable."
Allison is part of Douglas High School's Students Taking on Prevention, or STOP, program. She routinely participates in the annual Kick Butts Day, where students and organizations across the country stage tobacco awareness campaigns outside legislative buildings.
She even testified in the 2007 Nevada Legislature in favor of a bill that would prohibit minors from possessing tobacco, not just buying it. The bill failed, but Allison remains committed in her efforts.
However, she said a big part of her campaign is not being judgmental.
"I have friends that use tobacco," she said. "I don't want to push them. I just want to be there when they need help."
Last week, Allison found out she had been named the top youth advocate of the year in the Western United States by Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Only five other students in the entire nation received the honor.
"It is so amazing," said Partnership Director Cheryl Bricker at a party for Allison on Wednesday. "I'm so honored and proud to have such outstanding youth in our coalition."
On May 19, Allison, along with her parents, will travel to Washington, D.C., with Partnership prevention coordinator Linda Gilkerson.
She will meet and train with other top youth advocates, tour the capital, visit Congress and enjoy a fancy dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Besides the trip, Emily will receive a $2,500 scholarship for college and a $500 grant for further prevention efforts.
"I'm excited," she said. "I'm looking forward to touring the White House."