YAYA winner. That’s what we’re calling Olean High School senior Olivia Lang these days.  She was recently chosen among hundreds of fellow youth leaders as New York State’s Tobacco Control Youth Advocate of the Year. This award, sponsored by Reality Check of New York State, honors the outstanding work of the youth advocate who has led the way in advocating for tobacco prevention policies, taking on the tobacco industry and its deceptive marketing, as well as helping to keep her peers tobacco free.

Olean Reality Check member Olivia Lang (standing, second from left) was honored this past week as Youth Advocate of the Year by Reality Check New York. She is joined by her fellow youth advocates and Youth Outreach Coordinator, Jonathan Chaffee.

Lang has reached many accomplishments in her advocacy role, most notably testifying at a Common Council hearing in support of tobacco-free parks for the city of Olean.

“I’m proud to be fighting for a tobacco-free generation.” said Lang. “I’m also thankful to Reality Check for giving me this award, and for helping me make a change in my community.” 

Reality Check coordinator at TF-CCA, Jonathan Chaffee, says he is grateful to all Reality Check youth advocates, as well as the communities they serve, for helping to raise awareness about the negative impact of tobacco use and Big Tobacco marketing.

“Without youth and community members like Olivia who feel passionately about public health, what we are doing would never work,” Chaffee said. “We know that 480,000 people in the United States die each year from tobacco related illness and we want that number to be zero. People concerned about this epidemic are the center of our work.”

In addition to attending the youth recognition ceremony, Reality Check teens at the annual Legislative Education Day told elected officials not only about their successes, but on the troubles they see tobacco causing in their communities, particularly among the vulnerable populations. Throughout New York, 33.7% of those with mental illness, 27.5% with less than a high school education and 26.8% who earn less than $15,000 a year smoke cigarettes.

Reality Check in our area area is associated with TF-CCA, a program of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Visit realitycheckofny.com to learn more about the Reality Check program.