Submitted photo and press release:
BATAVIA -- Brittany Bozzer, Youth Engagement manager of Tobacco-Free Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties (TF-GLOW), took Reality Check youth leaders from both St. Joseph School and Notre Dame High School to the state Capitol this week.
They went to Albany on Monday for the Annual Tobacco Control Legislative Day.
Their mission: to show lawmakers the success of the work they’ve done in their community to lower the smoking rate. They also told state leaders about the challenges they face in trying to reduce tobacco use, particularly among vulnerable groups in including fellow youth, the poor and people dealing with mental health issues.
The facts they shared
Cigarette smoking among New York’s high school youth declined 82 percent between 2000 and 2018, but from 2016 to 2018 the rate increased slightly for the first time since 2000. Even more alarming, electronic cigarette use among the state’s middle and high schoolers continues to rise.
Between 2014 and 2018, the rate increased fully 160 percent, from 10.5 percent to 27.4 percent, and studies show e-cigarettes can be a precursor to cigarette smoking in youth, even those who were not likely to smoke cigarettes.
Not only has the youth smoking rate in New York State increased for the first time since 2000, but data reveals that more than 1 in 4 of New York’s high-schoolers is using electronic nicotine devices,” Bozzer said.
“With more than half of teens falsely believing e-cigarettes are harmless, adolescent nicotine exposure can cause addiction, it can harm the developing adolescent brain and it can increase the risk of adolescents starting and continuing smoking combustible cigarettes.”
Successes and troubles
St. Joe’s eighth-graders Cayla Hansen and Katie Kratz, as well as Notre Dame sophomores Ben Streeter, Krysta Hansen and junior Maddie Payton, don’t like what they see the tobacco industry doing to hook their friend and family members.
So for this year’s Tobacco Control Legislative Education Day, they wanted to show and tell their elected officials what they see. They created an interactive, life-sized board game called “Tobacco Trouble,” bringing lawmakers on board with the game between legislative sessions to learn about the group’s recent tobacco control successes and the continued fight they’re in with Big Tobacco, an industry that has overfilled their community's retail stores with tobacco products.
More troubling facts in NYS:
- Adults with poor mental health, less than a high school education or annual income less than $25,000 smoke at much higher rates than the general adult population in the state;
- About 280,000 kids now under 18 will die prematurely from smoking;
- E-cigarette use amongst youth has almost tripled from 2014 to 2018;
- E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product by youth—more than cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and hookah;
- Studies show e-cigarettes can be a precursor to cigarette smoking in youth, even those who were not likely to smoke cigarettes;
- Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.
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. Reality Check in this area is affiliated with Tobacco-Free Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties (TF-GLOW), a program managed by Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
To learn more about Reality Check, connect with Brittany Bozzer at 585-219-4064 or [email protected]