August 2017 Newsletter

Smoking is still a problem! There may be an opioid overdose crisis in this country, but cigarettes still kill 15 times more people. In fact, cigarettes kill more people in the United States than alcohol, car crashes, AIDS, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. While the current smoking rate among adults in New York State is 14.2%, the smoking rate is 22.9% for Delaware County, 26.3% for Otsego County, and 19.3% for Schoharie County.


Five local youth advocates in the statewide fight to protect future generations from the death and disease of tobacco use recentlyparticipated in the annual Reality Check Youth Summit at Cazenovia College. Brea Fyfe from the Oneonta Community Christian School, Ava Valetutto from Sharon Springs Central School, and Ahna Misiewicz, Arianna Mosenson and Jasmine Neill from Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School attended the program along with 150 other youth from across New York State.

During the summit, youth increased their public speaking and leadership skills and made plans to continue the fight against the tobacco industry’s influence back home in their communities. Summit participants were motivated to work on tobacco-free generation goals by attending workshops, listening to speakers and implementing tobacco-free-themed activities.

“Reality Check is a group of teens all around New York State who work to expose the manipulative and deceptive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry,” said Ahna Misiewicz. “It’s hard to believe that tobacco companies spend more than 9 billion dollars a year promoting tobacco products – that’s a half million dollars every day in New York State.”

“The average age of a new smoker is just 13,” said Jasmine Neill. “We know that tobacco marketing causes young people to start smoking. Just ask the U.S. Surgeon General. That’s why we are fighting against the tobacco industry’s influence on youth in our region.”

“As young people, we are vulnerable, and tobacco industry marketing takes advantage of that. For example, stores near schools have almost three times the amount of tobacco ads than stores in other areas,” said Brea Fyfe. “We’ve seen enough tobacco marketing. We need to make changes in our communities so that smoking is not the norm and we can build tobacco-free generations.”

Youth participants at the Reality Check Summit also made plans for #SeenEnoughTobacco Day on October 13, 2017. #SeenEnoughTobacco Day will be a statewide day of action hosted by Reality Check. Reality Check youth advocates will implement tobacco-free community activities and lead an online campaign to engage and educate community members and leaders about the importance of reducing youth exposure to tobacco marketing in order to achieve a tobacco-free generation.


According to data from the New York State Youth Tobacco Survey, cigarette smoking among high school age youth use declined by 84 percent between 2000 and 2016 achieving an all-time low of 4.3 percent that report current smoking. In contrast, use of e-cigarettes/vape pens among high school age youth doubled between 2014 and 2016 from 10.5 percent to 20.6 percent making e-cigarettes the most commonly used tobacco product surpassing cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and hookah.

“These startling numbers demonstrate both the overwhelming success of New York’s anti-smoking programs – which have led to record low teen cigarette use – and the need to close dangerous loopholes that leave e-cigarettes unregulated,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “Combatting teen tobacco use in all of its forms today will help create a healthier tomorrow for an entire generation of New Yorkers.”

According to the 2016 U.S. Surgeon General’s report, tobacco use among youth and young adults in any form, including e-cigarettes, is not safe. E-cigarettes are not safe alternatives to cigarettes. Studies show that e-cigarettes are not hazard-free. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug that can cause permanent changes in young, developing brains. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. E-cigarette aerosol can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine. E-cigarettes can also be used to aerosolize marijuana and other illicit drugs. According to Brian King, deputy director for research translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, “It’s critical to protect our nation’s youth from this preventable health risk.”

New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said, “The rapid rise in e-cigarette use among youth and its dual use with cigarettes is a cause for great concern. E-cigarette use by youth can be a gateway to nicotine addiction.”

In recent years, there has been an explosion of sweet-flavored tobacco products particularly e-cigarettes and cigars. These flavored products are very popular among youth. Studies show that flavors play a major role in youth use of tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and cigars. Flavors improve the taste and reduce the harshness of tobacco products, making them more appealing and easier for beginners like youth. Tobacco companies are enticing youth with candy-flavored e-cigarettes and cigars. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids states that these flavored products are undermining efforts to reduce tobacco use and are “putting a new generation of kids at risk of nicotine addiction and the serious health harms that result from tobacco use.”


Brick House Bakery – Cobleskill

The Brick House Bakery in the Village of Cobleskill has taken the lead among local businesses to promote the community’s health and welfare by recently adopting a tobacco-free outdoors policy. Effective September 1, 2017, The Bakery will prohibit employees, patrons and community members from using any tobacco products on its property, grounds and parking lots. Tobacco products are defined as any manufactured product containing tobacco or nicotine including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, bidis, snus, dissolvable tobacco products and electronic nicotine devices (ENDS) like electronic cigarettes.

The Brick House Bakery is a family business and the Zabas are committed to providing a homey and healthy environment to customers in the downtown Cobleskill area. Mr. Vincent Zaba recently added an outdoor eating area in front of The Bakery at the request of local patrons. According to Mr. Zaba, “The Bakery should be a place where people can relax, eat a pastry, enjoy a cup of coffee and breathe clean air. Youth and adults should not be exposed to secondhand smoke or aerosol or tobacco litter on our grounds and parking lots.”

By having his business tobacco-free, he also hopes to eliminate the environmental cues for youth and adults to use tobacco products. “As a former smoker, I know that tobacco use is an addiction and the use of tobacco products around others has a negative effect on lifestyle choices,” Mr. Zaba said. “When smokers trying to quit see tobacco use, it triggers cravings. In fact, the use of tobacco products on our property affects everyone who works and spends time at The Bakery. I want our business to be a healthy and safe place for youth, adults and families to enjoy,” Mr. Zaba added.


5 Reality Check youth advocates met at Glimmerglass State park to begin planning events and activities for the upcoming school year while also working on team building and public speaking skills.

Reality Check engages middle and high school aged youth in civic action aimed at de-glamorizing and de-normalizing tobacco use in communities by exposing the deceptive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. Program initiatives include promoting positive role-modeling in the entertainment industry, especially in movies, television on the Internet, and reducing exposure to tobacco advertising and display by tobacco retailers. Activities include social action, and legislative and media advocacy. Reality Check youth along with the Reality Check Youth Engagement Coordinator work with the Community Engagement Coordinator and other ATFC staff to address tobacco-free initiatives in our local communities.

SUNY Cobleskill Psychology Department Helps Implement Community Tobacco Survey

Amy Corbett, PhD and applied psychology majors at SUNY Cobleskill helped implement a telephone survey of residents in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties in cooperation with Advancing Tobacco Free Communities (ATFC) during Spring 2017. The approved survey included questions to measure smoking behavior as well as attitudes towards tobacco use and community tobacco control policies. The data collected will help ATFC make strategic decisions regarding program initiatives. ATFC educates communities and decision makers, mobilizes community members around the problems that tobacco addiction causes in local communities, and helps decision makers understand the types of choices that they have to address these problems.

30% to 40% of the survey respondents believed that the problem of tobacco use was among the most important issues facing their county; however, more people in each county reported that it was only equally as important as other issues.

People in the three-county area do believe that tobacco product presence and advertisements in stores make it more likely for youth to begin smoking. 58% of those sampled believed that it was somewhat or much more likely for youth to begin smoking if they see tobacco products or advertisements in stores. Regarding future policies about the prohibition of smoking/advertisements/smoking promotions, throughout the survey it was found that most people were in favor of stronger legislation. The exception to this were the policy questions regarding restrictions on sale location, coupons, and discounts. Strong support dropped to between 30% and 40% for these policy options.

When individuals were asked about their opinion regarding policies that prohibit smoking at outdoor public places like parks and recreation areas, 80% of those surveyed were neutral to strongly in favor of such a policy as compared to 20% who were somewhat to strongly against instituting a ban. 81% of people surveyed were neutral to strongly in favor of prohibiting smoking at public outdoor community events like fairs and sporting events as compared to 19% who were somewhat to strongly against such a ban.

One of the survey questions asked individuals about their opinion regarding a policy prohibiting smoking on a college campus. 83% of those surveyed were neutral to strongly in favor of such a policy while 17% were somewhat to strongly against implementing a ban on smoking at colleges. In New York State, more than 42% of college campuses have implemented a tobacco-free or smoke-free campus policy including more than 37% of SUNY campuses.

The most common purchase location among smokers were tobacco shops and convenience stores. Tobacco stores rated about 35% in both Delaware and Otsego Counties and only approximately 18% in Schoharie County. The most popular place to purchase tobacco products is convenience stores in Schoharie County at approximately 35%; the rate for purchasing at convenience stores is similar in Otsego County at 30%. Other purchase places are all below 20%.

31% of those sampled believed that vape pens/e-cigarettes are equally as harmful as regular combustible tobacco while 13 % of the sample felt that vape pens/e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking. Vape pen/e-cigarette and usage data is based on less than 20% of the sample. E-cigarettes were used as cessation devices among much of the sample who used them. Many respondents across all three counties felt they did not know enough about vaping to say whether they thought it was more or less harmful than regular cigarettes (40%-45%).