Tranquility Cleveland, an 8th grader from Charlotte Valley, Jillian Johnson and Riley Mance, 8th graders from Cherry Valley/Springfield, Jasmine Neill, a sophomore from Cherry Valley/Springfield, Ava Valetutto, a sophomore from Sharon Springs, and Brea Fyfe, a 2018 graduate of the Oneonta Community Christian School, returned recently from the annual Reality Check Youth Summit at Cazenovia College. The six teens represented the Reality Check Program in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties at the conference this year.

 

The Reality Check Youth Summit is an educational event focused on helping youth hone their public speaking and leadership skills, and in making plans to fight against the tobacco industry’s influence in their communities. 150 Reality Check teens representing every region of New York State attended workshops, implemented tobacco-free-themed activities, were inspired by national youth speakers to achieve their tobacco-free generation goals, planned a #SeenEnoughTobacco rally and worked with local media.

 

Jillian Johnson, a first year member of Reality Check, shared “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.”

 

“I think tobacco companies try to deceive kids with their packaging that looks a lot like candy and juice boxes and with products flavored like strawberry and bubble gum,” said Ava Valetutto, a third year member of Reality Check.

 

“Did you know that the tobacco industry puts most of their marketing in stores where 75 percent of teens shop at least once a week? The more kids see tobacco products the more likely they are to start smoking,” said Jasmine Neill who is in her third year with Reality Check and was a member of the 2018 Reality Check Summit youth leadership team.

 

Brea Fyfe, a third year member of Reality Check pointed out, “The tobacco industry uses colorful signs, walls of tobacco products, special discounts and displays to get kids’ attention. Reality Check speaks out in communities across the state to say that we’ve seen enough tobacco.”

 

“A number of communities in New York State have taken action to protect youth from tobacco marketing, but there’s more work to do to protect future generations from the death and disease of tobacco use—and Reality Check youth advocates have the power to do it,” according to Bonnie Peck, Youth Engagement/Reality Check Coordinator with Advancing Tobacco Free Communities in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties (ATFC-DOS)

 

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. Locally Reality Check is the youth action component of ATFC-DOS affiliated with the SUNY Research Foundation at SUNY Cobleskill. For more information about how youth grades 6+ can become involved in Reality Check, contact Bonnie Peck at 518-255-5387 or email peckbs@cobleskill.edu

 

#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 SeenEnoughTobacco.org.