Reality Check (RC) youth from schools across New York declared Tuesday, October 13, 2020 as the fourth annual Seen Enough Tobacco (SET) Day, which highlights the need for communities to protect children from the billions of dollars of tobacco marketing in places where kids can see it. The 13th was selected to underscore the alarming fact that the average age of a new smoker in New York is 13 years old.
To accentuate that they have seen enough of Big Tobacco’s deceptive tactics and marketing, Reality Check youth extended SET Day to a weeklong celebration and awareness building campaign on social media called SET Spirit Week.
While New York State’s recent ban on flavored e-cigarettes is a significant step toward reducing youth tobacco use, other flavored tobacco products, such as little cigars, chew and menthol cigarettes that are still on the market present an obstacle to decreasing tobacco use among young people and minority populations. Unfortunately, in Allegany County residents have access to flavored disposable vape products at Native owned stores, as they follow federal laws. Menthol use among Black communities is a direct result of the tobacco industry’s marketing practices and product manipulation. Tobacco companies add menthol to make cigarettes seem less harsh and more appealing to new smokers and young people. Essentially, menthol in tobacco products, makes it easier to start and harder to quit. Research indicates that:
· More than half (54%) of youth who smoke use menthol cigarettes.
· Young people and African Americans are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than other groups.
· Over 7 out of 10 African American youth ages 12-17 years who smoke use menthol cigarettes.
Because one day is not enough to educate communities on the misleading tactics of the tobacco industry, Reality Check youth made October 13-October 16, 2020, Seen Enough Tobacco Spirit Week on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Tuesday, October 13: Youth champions and their leaders wore Reality Check branded merchandise and posted selfies promoting two messages: 13 is the average age of a new smoker in New York State; and Menthol cigarettes are marketed disproportionately to younger smokers.
Wednesday, October 14 was Wacky Wednesday
Youth posted selfies wearing something wacky with messaging: Big Tobacco once had an anti-smoking ad that said “Tobacco is Wacko if you’re a Teen.”
It didn’t prevent anyone from smoking — no surprise.
Thursday, October 15 was Hollywood Thursday
Youth posted selfies of themselves dressed like a celebrity with message:
Smoking in movies kills in real life. Support an R rating for movies that glamorize smoking.
Friday, October 16 is Flavor Friday
RC youth took selfies wearing green with message:
Young people who start smoking with menthol cigarettes are more likely to become addicted and become long-term daily smokers; and, 7 out of 10 African American youth smokers smoke menthol.
Reality Check is a teen-led, adult-run program that seeks to prevent and decrease tobacco use among young people throughout New York State.
For more information about Reality Check, visit realitycheckofny.org.
Reality Check New York empowers youth to become leaders in their community 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. Reality Check in this area is affiliated with YOUR ORGANIZATION NAME).
The NYS Tobacco Control Program is made up of a network of statewide contractors who work on Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities, which includes Community Engagement and Reality Check, the Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free New York, the NYS Smokers’ Quitline and Surveillance and Research. Their efforts are leading the way toward a tobacco-free society. For more information, visit TobaccoFreeNYS.org and the New York State Quitline.