Reality Check managers Jonathan Chaffee and Brittany Bozzer took youth leaders from their regions to the state Capitol this week. Their mission: to talk with lawmakers about the success of the work they’ve done in their communities to lower the smoking rate. They also told state leaders about the challenges they face in trying to reduce tobacco use, particularly among vulnerable groups in their communities including fellow youth, the poor and folks dealing with mental health issues. 

Reality Check coordinator Jonathan Chaffee leads youth from TF-CCA in their fight against Big Tobacco and all the troubles that come from their deceptive marketing tactics.

The facts they shared.

Cigarette smoking among New York’s high school youth declined 82 percent between 2000 and 2018, but from 2016 to 2018 the rate increased slightly for the first time since 2000. Even more alarming, electronic cigarette use among the state’s middle and high schoolers continues to rise. Between 2014 and 2018, the rate increased fully 160 percent, from 10.5 percent to 27.4 percent, and studies show e-cigarettes can be a precursor to cigarette smoking in youth, even those who were not likely to smoke cigarettes. 

Not only has the youth smoking rate in New York State increased for the first time since 2000, but data reveals that more than 1 in 4 of New York’s high schoolers is using electronic nicotine devices,” said Brittany Bozzer, Youth Engagement Coordinator for Tobacco-Free Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming Counties (TF-GLOW). “With more than half of teens falsely believing e-cigarettes are harmless, adolescent nicotine exposure can cause addiction, it can harm the developing adolescent brain and it can increase the risk of adolescents starting and continuing smoking combustible cigarettes. “

Show me the troubles

Our Reality Check youth leaders, who don’t like what they see the tobacco industry doing to hook fellow youth and family members, wanted to show versus tell their elected officials what they see. So they created an interactive, life-sized board game called “Tobacco Trouble.” Lawmakers playing the Trouble game between legislative sessions learned about the group’s  recent tobacco control successes and the continued fight they’re in with Big Tobacco, an industry that has overfilled their communities’ retail stores with tobacco products.

More troubling facts in NYS:

  • Adults with poor mental health, less than a high school education or annual income less than $25,000 smoke at much higher rates than the general adult population in the state;
  • About 280,000 kids now under 18 will die prematurely from smoking;
  • E-cigarette use amongst youth has almost tripled from 2014 to 2018
  • E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product by youth—more than cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and hookah; 
  • Studies show e-cigarettes can be a precursor to cigarette smoking in youth, even those who were not likely to smoke cigarettes.
  • Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.

To learn more about Reality Check, reach out here:

In Erie and Niagara (EN) Counties: [email protected]

In Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany (CCA) Counties: [email protected]

In Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming (GOW): [email protected]