Reality Check Youth Summit Raises Tobacco Awareness

From left are Ken Dahlgren, Tobacco Free CCA community engagement coordinator; Falconer Reality Check member Spencer Bautista, Fillmore Reality Check member Colton Rosier, Jon Chaffee, Reality Check CCA coordinator; Olean Reality Check members Olivia Lang and Courtney Sisson, and Falconer Reality Check member Haley Card. Submitted photo

Falconer High School students Spencer Bautista, 15, and Haley Card, 14, recenly returned from the annual Reality Check Youth Summit at Cazenovia College.

During leadership workshops and teambuilding exercises with 150 other youth from around the state, they made plans for raising awareness in their own community about the impact tobacco marketing has on youth.

“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,” Bautista said. “The more kids see tobacco the more likely they are to start smoking. And I’m 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,” Card said. “We’re speaking out in communities all across the state to protect youth from tobacco marketing and the dangers of tobacco use.”

During the Youth Summit, Reality Check members 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 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 eight-foot-tall mini-golf windmill