A 5 a.m. wake up call for a teen on a Saturday morning can be quite the battle.

It wasn’t, however, a big fight for the 100+ Reality Check teens from Western and Central New York who rose to the occasion to promote smoke free movies in Toronto.

It’s a wrap! Reality Check youth close out their Smoke Free Movie event with a group shot and poster of what they learned.

After a two-hour bus ride and careful Customs and Border check-in, they demonstrated loudly and proudly outside ScotiaBank movie theaters, TIFF Lightbox Theatre and Ripley’s Aquarium. They joined 100 youth from the Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI) in Ontario, Canada.

Media coverage from WBFO, Buffalo’s NPR News Station

So, what was the event’s plot?

After initial video, recruitment and social media training, students took to the streets in teams that best matched their skills and comfort level. Some did man-on-the-street interviews. Others carried posters with statistics, as well as cardboard heads of movie stars. Still others shared interview clips on social media as well as roamed the streets near Metro Hall, getting passers-by to sign a petition intended for the movie industry.

Where it all began: Training, poster-making and friends-making.
The Reality Check CCA team sums up the day’s learnings in a poster.
Patrick Holland, from Niagara Falls High School, made his smoke free movie poster with discarded cigarette butts.


Behind the scenes

According to a 2014 report from the Surgeon General, giving an R rating to future movies with smoking would be expected to reduce the number of teen smokers by nearly 1 in 5 (18%) and prevent 1 million deaths from smoking among teens and children alive today.

Nora Galley, a Reality Check advocate from Mount Mercy High School in Buffalo, said the problem is that movie characters who smoke are usually seen as “cool” or “very charismatic.”

“It makes it seem like smoking is the norm, that smoking is OK,” she said, “and that’s why I think it’s such a big problem.”

Enjoy a first cut of the event video.

This cross-border crusade is the second annual smoke-free movies event for the Reality Check and YATI groups. This year, student advocates decided to video street interviews and share on their social channels to gain more support for Smoke Free Movies (SFM). 

They want to show Big Tobacco and Hollywood that they are watching. And ready to make a difference.

Media Coverage from Our Voice, Rochester

Stay tuned for more.