Reality Check brings tobacco awareness to forefront

AMSTERDAM — The Reality Check and Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties are drawing awareness to the problem of tobacco industry store marketing and its impact on youth tobacco use and perceptions of tobacco use.

Because tobacco marketing is a proven cause of youth smoking, Reality Check is raising awareness and encouraging community members to stand up to eliminate tobacco marketing and advertising in places where youth can see them. The goal is to put an end to youth smoking and other tobacco use and create a tobacco-free generation.

The Reality Check youth placed lawn signs highlighting facts about tobacco use and tobacco marketing in front of the Johnstown Office Complex, Main Street. The signs featured graphics to coordinate with Halloween but also to emphasize the scary nature of some of the facts, such as there are 27 times more tobacco retailers than there are McDonald’s and stores near schools contain nearly three times the amount of tobacco advertisements.

“We’ve seen enough tobacco promotions and smoking. The solution is to change our community so that tobacco and tobacco use is not the norm,” said Reality Check member Matthew Terleckey, Perth, who is a sophomore at Saratoga Central Catholic High School.

Currently, there are 55 tobacco and electronic cigarette retailers in Fulton County, many within close proximity to schools. Children and teenagers are routinely exposed to tobacco marketing on a daily basis while on their way to school. Many students who walk or ride school buses may pass a tobacco retailer at least once per day.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies have been shown to cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.” The activities are part of the overall statewide “Seen Enough Tobacco” initiative.

Findings on youth tobacco use and tobacco industry marketing in places where children and young adolescents can see them indicate:

∫ The average age of a new smoker is 13 years old, and 90 percent of adult smokers say they first tried smoking by age 18.

∫ The U.S. tobacco industry spent an estimated $9.5 billion on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in 2013. This includes nearly $220 million annually in New York state, or nearly $602,000 a day.

∫ Stores popular among adolescents contain almost three times more tobacco marketing materials compared to other stores in the same community.

∫ Reality Check of New York empowers youth to become leaders in their community in exposing what they see as the manipulative and deceptive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. The organization’s members produce change in their communities through grassroots mobilization and education. Reality Check is part of the Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities statewide grant, which is funded by the New York State Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Program. The NYS Tobacco Control Program is made up of a network of statewide contractors who live and work in the communities they serve. Locally the grant is held by Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery. Since 1976, Catholic Charities has served area residents by providing services such as substance abuse prevention, food pantry, domestic violence advocacy and dispute mediation. For more information about the local Reality Check chapter in Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties, visit tobaccofreehfm.org.

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