top of page
  • Melissa Potter

Senator Valesky meets with 150 NYS teens for #SeenEnoughTobacco rally in Cazenovia, applauds work to

Last week in Cazenovia, members of the Reality Check Program of Cortland, Tompkins & Chenango Counties joined 150 Reality Check teens representing every region of New York State to rally against what they say is deceitful marketing by the tobacco industry that kids find appealing. Protesting that they have #SeenEnoughTobacco, youth speakers cited 13 as the average age of a new smoker in the state, calling attention to the problem of tobacco marketing in stores where kids can see it. They demanded support in holding the tobacco industry accountable for its marketing and promotional activities that have been shown to cause young people to start and continue smoking.

In welcoming the group to the region, New York State Sen. David J. Valesky said, “Today’s rally is a strong statement from teens who understand the dangers of smoking and tobacco industry marketing targeted at their age group. I applaud the students who traveled from all over the state to be here to share the message that they want tobacco marketing targeted at teens to stop.”

“The average age of a new smoker in New York is just 13 years old, and no one wants to see a kid start smoking,” said Nicole McKay, freshman at Bainbridge-Guilford High School.

“It seems like tobacco companies are trying to deceive kids with packaging that looks like candy and thousands of flavors that appeal to kids like strawberry and bubble gum,” said Kelsey Gibbons, senior at Cortland Junior Senior High School. “The more kids see tobacco the more likely they are to start smoking. And we’re here to say we’ve seen enough tobacco in our communities.”

“Tobacco companies put most of their marketing in stores where 75 percent of teens shop at least once a week,” said Kristina Lamphere, sophomore at Norwich High School. “We’re speaking out in our communities and all across the state to protect youth from tobacco marketing and the dangers of tobacco use.”

Youth demonstrate how bright colors, tobacco displays appeal to kids

At Lakeland Park in Cazenovia, the youth demonstrated how they believe tobacco companies’ deceptive marketing draws kids to tobacco products, using large displays of what would normally be considered kid-friendly items. However, community members were shocked to see what the youth were demonstrating as they approached the items including, large cutouts of:

  • a kids’ birthday cake with cigarettes for candles, and a banner reading “The average age of a new smoker is 13”

  • a crayon box with cigarettes instead of crayons that reflect startling statistics about tobacco marketing and youth smoking

  • a claw machine filled with packs of cigarettes instead of stuffed animals and toys

  • an ice cream truck promoting tobacco product sales rather than ice cream sales, and

  • open packs of cigarettes on the blades of a working 8’ tall x 5’ wide mini-golf windmill

At each demonstration, Reality Check youth explained their efforts to grab community members’ attention with the supposed kid-friendly exhibit just as the tobacco industry is grabbing youth’s attention with tobacco marketing in stores.

“It’s estimated that about 82 percent of new lung cancer cases are caused by cigarette smoking. Although cigarette smoking rates in adults have decreased over the years, smoking rates in Cortland County are still higher than the state average at 18.3%. Consequently, Cortland County experiences significantly higher rates of lung cancer diagnosis and death when compared to the state,” said Cortland County Director of Public Health Catherine Feuerherm. “Of particular concern in Cortland County is the number of youth that smoke. We know from national data that nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18. A survey of Cortland County students in grades 7 – 12 revealed that about 1 in 10 report ever smoking cigarettes.”


The teens marched to the rally along Albany Street from the Cazenovia College Campus, the site of the group’s three-day youth summit held this week. This is the third year in a row the college has hosted the Reality Check summit, an educational event focused on helping youth hone their public speaking and leadership skills, and making plans to fight against the tobacco industry’s influence in their communities. They attended workshops, carried out tobacco-free-themed activities, were inspired by national youth speakers to achieve their tobacco-free generation goals, planned the #SeenEnoughTobacco rally and worked with local media.

Reality Check empowers youth to become leaders in their communities 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.

#SeenEnoughTobacco is an online campaign with the goal of safeguarding children from the billions of dollars of hard-hitting tobacco promotions in places where children see them. Parents, community leaders and others interested in protecting youth are encouraged to learn more at

1 view0 comments


bottom of page