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  • Melissa Potter

Local Youth Attend Regional Reality Check Training To Act Against Big Tobacco

On September 30, 2018, over 30 Reality Check Youth Leaders and tobacco control staff from across 15 counties – Cortland, Tompkins, Chenango, Broome, Tioga, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Cayuga, Oswego, Onondaga, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates – gathered at Orenda Springs Experiential Learning Center in Marcellus, NY to meet, bond, organize and act against Big Tobacco.

Reality Check held a day long training for new and current Reality Check youth members. Youth, between the ages of 13 and 18, had the opportunity to learn and work on team building activities, which included low and high ropes courses. The staff at Orenda encouraged youth to foster a deeper understanding of self, others, and nature – focusing on skills like leadership, communication, passion, trust and many more. They discovered the power within themselves and others to expand beyond their personal limits and positively impact the world around them. In addition, they all participated in an interactive training on Reality Check initiatives, which included brainstorming activities for tobacco-free community policies.

“In Reality Check, it’s important to work as a team and the different activities at Orenda, especially the low ropes course taught us that. It was really cool to see and use different leadership styles, said Britney Blackledge, 17, of Norwich High School.

“It was great to see so many youth come together to support a great cause and learn skills that they can use in their life, as well as in Reality Check,” said Rose Walsh, Chenango County Reality Check Coordinator.

According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, if current smoking rates continue, 5.6 million Americans younger than 18, who are alive today, are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease. In New York State, the average age of a new smoker is 13 years old. Research shows that the earlier a person starts smoking, specifically a teenager, the more likely they are to become addicted to nicotine.

“We have a lot of work to do in educating our community and letting everyone know what the tobacco industry is up to, especially the way they market their products that appeal to youth, said Kaitlyn Gould, 15, of Norwich High School.”

Tobacco marketing and sales in stores near schools is a particular concern because teens that pass by or shop at these stores are routinely exposed to pro-tobacco messaging. Exposure to point-of-sale advertising and promotions prompts smoking initiation, encourages tobacco use, aids unplanned purchases, and undermines quit attempts. In New York State, 51 % of tobacco retailers fall within 1,000 feet of a school, so it is not surprising that youth are more likely to use tobacco, as well as purchase, when stores are located within a short distance of their schools.

Exposure to tobacco marketing in stores is a primary cause of youth smoking. To protect our youth, licensing is a powerful tool that can help minimize pro-drug messaging and help to reduce youth and adult tobacco use.

For more information on Reality Check or tobacco marketing visit or contact Reality Check Coordinator Rose Walsh 607-758-5515

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