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Reality Check gathers 70 teens at Keuka for leadership program

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  • Staff Report 

Reality Check of New York State gathered more than 70 teens at Keuka College in the Finger Lakes Region of New York to gain leadership, self-empowerment, and team-building skills to produce change in their communities.  Reality Check of New York State is funded by New York State and administered by the American Lung Association to expose the tobacco industry’s deceptive and manipulative marketing tactics that appeal to youth and lead to nicotine addiction.

“I cannot wait for next year. My favorite part was learning about tobacco activism and all the activities we got to do,” Jordan Thomas from Canandaigua Academy said of the experience. “Connecting with fellow coordinators and our youth was such an amazing experience. The youth connecting over the common goal of ending the tobacco industry’s influence on their peers is crucial to ending big tobacco.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

When New York State ended the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in May 2020, it was a significant step toward reducing youth tobacco use. However, e-cigarette use remains the most used tobacco product among New York State youth. A survey by the New York State Department of Health found that  22.5% of youth used e-cigarettes in 2020. More than half of teens falsely believe e-cigarettes are harmless.

Reality Check organizers shared additional information about tobacco industry marketing and its effect on youth smoking initiation including:

  • The average age of a new smoker is 13 years old, and 90% of adult smokers say they first tried smoking by age 18.
  • In 2019, cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent $8.2 billion on advertising and promotions in the U.S. alone. 
  • To catch the attention of youth, tobacco companies use colorful packaging that sometimes imitates the packaging of popular candy brands. Plus, tobacco product advertisements in stores are often at children’s eye level (less than three feet off the ground), and tobacco products are placed near candy, toys and other youth-friendly items.
  • Menthol cigarettes lead to increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater addiction and decreased success in quitting smoking.
  • Youth who initiate using menthol cigarettes are more likely to become addicted and become long-term daily smokers.

During the summit’s Activism Training Fair, youth experienced a variety of hands-on, highly visual, and engaging activities to mobilize and educate their community about Big Tobacco’s impact on young people. Activities included Cups in the Fence, Chalk the Walk and presentations from Jim Cain and Shaun Derik.

Reality Check of New York State is a program of the American Lung Association and is funded by the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control’s, Tobacco Control Program of New York State (TCP). TCP aims to reduce illness, disability and death related to tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure, and to alleviate the social and economic burdens caused by tobacco use.