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No smoke and
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At the tender age of 22, Jeff Jordan is leading a company that tries to show gay men they can be fabulous and rebellious without cigarettes

At age 14, Jeff Jordan came out. At 17, he started a company focused on getting people to quit smoking, curb drinking, and live healthier. At 21, he is a business whiz--the leader of Rescue Social Change Group, a company with 13 employees and revenues expected to reach $1.5 million this year.

It all began when a friend invited Jordan, then in high school, to attend an antismoking youth group. "This young man came in and basically took over the meeting," says Maria Azzarelli, tobacco control coordinator for the Clark County Health District, which includes Las Vegas, thus serving 70% of Nevada. "He was so intelligent, so articulate, and such a leader. I was like, 'Who is this kid?' " That kid, deciding he could do the work of the county's high-priced consultant better and for less, soon formed a company and landed his first contract.

Rescue Social Change Group now has clients in 12 states, and Jordan is blazing a new path in the decades-old field of social marketing, which applies commercial-marketing methods to social issues. Translation: He's more likely to suggest sponsoring smoke-free hip-hop parties than filling billboards with statistics.

In an era when retailers use shirtless models to sell clothes, many public-health commercials still bet on logic to change behavior. And that seems so old-school to Jordan.

"The people who are most likely to be smoking or doing drugs or drinking or whatever--they really aren't thinking about the future," he says. "They know that they could get sick and they could die. They're doing it because it makes them feel something else: It makes them feel sexy, or it makes them feel rebellious. It's all about image."

Rescue Social Change launched a stop-smoking campaign called "Urban Fuel," which offers pictures of the smoke-free "hottest hotties" of Las Vegas, T-shirts to "turn your hot body into a hot statement," and the "young and sexy" calendar of no-smoking parties. A related effort tells gay men that not smoking makes them "taste better" and have "smoother skin."

It seems to be helping: Youth smoking around Las Vegas fell to 18% in 2005, down from 33% in 2001. Jordan, meanwhile, was chosen the Small Business Administration's 2005 Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Rhode Island and New England.

But Jordan's story isn't a story of an entrepreneur born with a silver spoon in his mouth. A self-described illegal immigrant, he was 3 when his family moved from Peru to Florida, where his father drove a construction truck. "Knowing that my dad was a college-educated person in Peru with a great job, who came to the United States and had to give it all up, taught me so much about sacrifice and really putting your priorities in order," says Jordan, who became a U.S. citizen when he was 10.

Coming out in an old-fashioned Latino household was rough too. He first told his mother, who initially hoped his sexual orientation would change. His father found out when he stumbled across a prom picture of Jordan with his date--another man. His parents have since accepted his homosexuality, and now they marvel at his success. "He believes in what he's doing," says his mother, Annarella Jordan. "It's his passion."

Jordan hopes to expand his work, especially among gay men who have other serious addictions. "I have firsthand experience with this: You meet a guy who could be the love of your life, but he's screwed up because he got into drugs, he got into alcohol, he got into smoking, and he's not going to be fixed until he's, like, 30," he says. "There's enough that we go through already. The best way to change that is to understand who they want to be and show them it is better achieved by not doing these things than by doing them."

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