Finally, it’s Election Day.
As Americans head off to the polls, we polled some of our tobacco control experts across Western New York to learn what issues are most important to them as they campaign for reducing tobacco use in their communities every day.
Here’s how they voted:
Lindsay Amico, Youth Outreach Coordinator for Reality Check, Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara:
Definitely the point-of-sale initiative because it’s often perceived as “anti-business” and is also difficult for decision-makers to wrap their brain around. It’s a relatively new tobacco-free policy and because it includes everything from outdoor signage to promotional payments to retailers by tobacco companies, it’s hard to describe to our elected officials. This frustrates me because we know that retail marketing targets kids. It’s critical for us to protect young children from seeing tobacco advertising in store, which includes flavored tobacco products.
Jonathan Chaffee, Youth Outreach Coordinator for Reality Check, Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany (CCA):
The hardest thing we face across all four of our program initiatives (tobacco-free outdoors, tobacco-free housing, point-of-sale and smoke-free media) is the idea and push back of ‘smoker’s rights.” People should have the choice to smoke, but not at the cost of another person’s health.
Shelly Wolanske: Youth Outreach Coordinator for Reality Check, Tobacco-Free Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming (GOW):
I think the most challenging part of my work is finding the time to do everything I want. As a youth advocate teacher, trainer and coordinator, there are so many kids to reach in so many schools, but I’m still building our coalition. There’s also the wide open spaces and distance of working in rural communities, which make of much of my region. And, with so many issues on the table, whether health, economic or educational, policies regarding tobacco fall to the bottom.
Anthony Billoni, Director, Tobacco-Free WNY:
From my view, a big challenge is public perception that we have won the war on tobacco or that the current “health risk of the day” that is getting headlines — zika, heroin, obesity etc — is more dangerous. Unfortunately, tobacco is still the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the world and we need to help our community understand that as the basis for the policy changes we advocate.
Ken Dahlgren, Community Engagement Coordinator, Tobacco-Free CCA:
It’s the David and Goliath factor. We’re the grassroots underdog, the “little guy” trying to triumph over the big-money, Big Tobacco giants. It’s our limited resources fighting for tobacco-free policies versus the 9.5 billion a year tobacco companies spend to market their products throughout the U.S. That’s a real challenge.
The early exit poll is in: Experts say we still have a lot of work to do reduce tobacco use.
And we’re on it. Whether it’s fighting Big Tobacco at retail, demanding the movie studios rate smoking in movies “R,” clearing up our outdoor air, or providing a smoke-free home for everyone who wants one, we’ve got 4 more years plus to vote tobacco out for good.