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February 11, 2020 - 4:54pm

Submitted photo and press release:

Tobacco-Free Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties (TF-GOW) and Reality Check youth champions from Notre Dame High School were at the New York Capitol on Feb. 4, talking with lawmakers about the success of the state’s Tobacco Control Program.

Notre Dame freshman Morgan Wahl, junior Benjamin Streeter, and senior Maddie Payton joined a pair of Reality Check peers from Warsaw High School in the Albany rally, Shelby Pietron and Katie Pietron. Brittany Bozzer, Reality Check coordinator at TF-GOW attended, too.

They focused their messaging on lowering the average smoking rate to 12.8 percent and about the unmet needs in tobacco control efforts, particularly among youth and certain communities. They met with Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and Assemblyman David DiPietro.

During legislative meetings, the youth stressed that cigarette smoking among high school youth statewide declined 82 percent between 2000 and 2018, but e-cigarette use by high schoolers continues to rise, now at 27 percent. In contrast, only 3.8 percent of adult New Yorkers use e-cigarettes. Additionally, nearly 40 percent 12th-graders use e-cigarettes statewide.

Research shows that youth who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to start smoking conventional cigarettes than their peers who do not vape.

“Successfully reducing the average adult smoking rate to 12.8 percent in New York State is a significant achievement, but new and emerging nicotine products—like e-cigarettes—could reverse the substantial gains we’ve made in reducing smoking,” Bozzer said.

“We know that marketing attracts youth to e-cigarettes, and flavors are what gets them to try them. Nicotine is what keeps them addicted.”

Higher smoking rates among certain communities

New Yorkers with low education, low income and reporting frequent mental distress smoke at higher rates than the state average.

“Although the average smoking rate is down, cigarette smoking rates among certain communities are considerably higher than average," Bozzer said. "For example, throughout New York State, 25.5 percent of adults reporting frequent mental distress smoke cigarettes, as do 20 percent of those with less than a high school education and nearly 20 percent of those with an annual household income of less than $25,000.

“Income, education, and mental health status shouldn’t determine smoking rates, but they do, and our program has a local and statewide program in place to further tobacco-free norms."

While at the Capitol, the Notre Dame youth talked with lawmakers about work being done in their communities and provided an interactive display in The Well of the Legislative Office Building, revealing the true facts behind Big Tobacco’s misleading marketing.

More Facts: The Costs of Tobacco Use in New York State

  • Annual health care costs directly caused by smoking in the state are $10.39 billion;
  • This expense results in a tax burden of $1,410 for each household every year;
  • There are 28,200 deaths in New York State each year due to smoking, and thousands who are living with illnesses related to tobacco use;
  • The CDC recommends a $203 million annual investment in New York State’s Tobacco Control Program; the state’s investment is $39 million.

Reality Check 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 in this area is affiliated with Tobacco-Free Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties (TF-GOW) program managed by Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The NYS Tobacco Control Program is made up of a network of statewide contractors who work on Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities, which includes Community Engagement and Reality Check, the Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free New York, the NYS Smokers’ Quitline and Surveillance and Research.

Their efforts are leading the way toward a tobacco-free society. For more information, visit:

Photo: Back row (from left) Maddie Payton, Benjamin Streeter, as well as Notre Dame freshman Morgan Wahl (kneeling in front) took in the grandeur of the New York State Senate Chambers on their recent trip to educate lawmakers at the NYS Capitol. Earlier that day, they talked with Assemblyman David DiPietro, right, about tobacco control work being done in their communities and revealed the true facts behind Big Tobacco’s misleading marketing. Also pictured (middle row, from left) are Warsaw High School students Shelby Pietron, Katie Pietron, and Brittany Bozzer, Reality Check coordinator at TF-GOW.

October 16, 2019 - 3:47pm

("JUUL gets our goat, too!" says Dot.)

Submitted photo and press release:

As part of Truth Initiative’s National Day of Action, Reality Check high school champions from Warsaw in Wyoming County and Notre Dame in Batavia took action on Friday, Oct. 11, with a Safari tour and rally at Hidden Valley Safari Adventure in Varysburg titled “Animals Against Human Testing.” 

Just as humans speak out when companies test their products on animals, the Reality Check students "interviewed zebras, deer, geese – and even a camel named Randy – to get their support." To a critter, they all came out in favor of telling JUUL that their pod-based vaping devices and flavor pods present unknown health risks and are not safe for testing on humans. 

While mingling with their friends from another species, the teens also promoted “This Is Quitting,” the first-of-its-kind text-to-quit-vaping service that gives youth and young adults the motivation and support they need to ditch JUUL and other e-cigarettes.

The Safari continued on social media, as Warsaw and Notre Dame youth took selfies and videos with their new animal friends and posted them on social media using Truth Instagram stickers and the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans.

As cases of lung disease and death resulting from the vaping epidemic continue to sweep across the nation, including the recent death of a 17-year-old male in Bronx – the state’s first vaping-related fatality -- Reality Check youth and their adult leaders wanted more than ever to take a stand against JUUL and vaping.

“Truth Initiative has a long history of calling out Big Tobacco for its deadly exploits, and Tested on Humans is the latest example which exposes just how little is known about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes,” said Brittany Bozzer, Reality Check Youth Engagement coordinator of Tobacco-Free Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties (TF-GOW).

“We join them in delivering a clear message to JUUL and the entire tobacco industry: the safety and well-being of our region’s youth is not for sale.”

About Truth Initiative                                                                    

Truth Initiative is America’s largest nonprofit public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past. Their mission is clear: achieve a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco.

About Reality Check

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.

Efforts are evidence-based, policy-driven, and cost-effective approaches that decrease youth tobacco use, motivate adult smokers to quit, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. Reality Check in this area is affiliated with Tobacco-Free GOW and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

February 9, 2019 - 2:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in reality check, batavia, TF-GLOW, news.

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]

March 14, 2018 - 8:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in St. Joe's, batavia, news, education, reality check.

stjoekidsrealitycheck2018.jpg

Press release:

Why did you join Reality Check? That’s the question Reality Check coordinator Brittany Bozzer asks each student when they join the tobacco-free advocacy group and attend their first meeting.

There is simply no right or wrong answer. But it’s always inspiring to find out why our youth advocates join us and what it means to them to be a part of the group.

Here’s what Reality Check members from St. Joseph School in Batavia have to say:

Seventh-grader Maylee joined Reality Check so that she could make a difference to smokers.

“I want to learn about the dangers of tobacco and other products so that I can educate peers and those who smoke,” Maylee said.

 “I am anti-smoking smoking and think it is a bad habit or addiction for people to get involved with,” said James, also a seventh-grader, on why he got involved. “I also want to help out in the community.”

Amelia joined Reality Check to gain “knowledge, power, strength and confidence.”

And Paige joined to get “a good education on tobacco use and other drugs so that I can tell people about what I learned.”

Each young student has his or her own unique reason for joining, but there is one common thread. Each one has been affected by tobacco products in some way and they are choosing to help make a difference in their community.

What is Reality Check? Reality Check is a youth-based, adult-mentored, statewide youth program operated by the New York State Department of Health in Albany as well as Roswell Park Comprehensive Center.

The goal of Reality Check is to educate teens about the manipulative marketing practices used by the tobacco industry as well as to teach them how to advocate in the community for themselves and their peers. 

What do we do? Reality Check exposes the truths about tobacco marketing through point of sale and smoking in movies.

Through various activities led by youth, they are able to gather facts and statistics to show the reality that tobacco use among youth is very prevalent in their community and that it needs to be stopped. This tobacco is not exclusive to cigarette use; it also includes e-cigarettes and vaping as these also contain nicotine.

Most youth begin to get involved in Reality Check between seventh and eighth grades and continue on through high school, bringing awareness to the community and advocating for change!

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