New Year, New Start!

New Year’s Day symbolizes fresh starts and new beginnings. People use January as a benchmark to reprioritize their lives, and with the unique challenges that last year brought, many of us are looking ahead with even more fervor.

Something that 2020 brought clearly into focus is the importance of mental wellness. A variety of factors can impact mental health, including thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Problems related to gambling can influence each of those components. If gambling, yours or someone else’s, has negatively affected you, know that you are not alone and there is support.

Nearly 668,000 New Yorkers have experienced a gambling problem in the past year. The effects can include sleep issues, strain on relationships with loved ones, financial problems and increased alcohol or drug use.  People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk for other mental health problems. Two out of three individuals reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling. Gambling disorder may also occur with other existing conditions like anxiety, depression, mood disorder or personality disorder.

Emotional and psychological distress is not exclusive to just the person gambling either – each of those individuals can affect up to 10 of the closest people in their lives. A study found that nine out of 10 people impacted by someone else’s gambling problems felt emotional distress. Between the people gambling and their close friends and family, nearly 6.7 million New Yorkers are affected by problem gambling and may experience mental health issues because of it. 

Most importantly, help is available if you or someone you love has been exhibiting warning signs of a gambling problem, such as being absent from activities with friends or loved ones because of gambling; feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling; low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with gambling; or lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling. January is a great time to reach out to the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC).

The Western PGRC is here to help anyone who is looking to reprioritize their lives and overcome the problems that gambling has caused. Private-practice counselors, behavioral health and treatment facilities, recovery groups and other community services throughout Western New York make up a vast referral network. When people call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org, they confidentially connect with a knowledgeable PGRC staff person who will listen to and connect them with the resources that best meet their needs. Whether you are ready to get help, or you are just curious about your options, call us today. We’re here to help.

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year’s theme is “Best for You. Best for Baby”.  Leading prenatal health experts from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, and MotherToBaby have partnered to increase awareness to reduce the chances of babies born with birth defects.  One critical area is that of avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant.  A developing baby is exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the mother during pregnancy, which can result in a wide range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities.  Alcohol and tobacco use can each increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Alcohol use may also make it more difficult for a woman to become pregnant.

Tobacco use in any form can harm an unborn baby.  Carbon monoxide, a toxic gas found in cigarette smoke, lowers oxygen levels in the mother’s blood, which means there is also less oxygen for the baby.  Nicotine, the addictive drug found in tobacco, reduces blood flow by causing blood vessels to narrow.  This means that fewer nutrients can reach the baby.  Pregnant women who smoke have more problems with pregnancy and delivery than nonsmokers do and may have a baby with low birth weight.

Chemicals in marijuana pass through the mother and can harm a baby’s development, and opioid exposure during pregnancy can cause Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition in which the newborn experiences withdrawal from the substance and possible premature birth. 

Let’s support our future generation of babies by encouraging potential mothers to choose a healthy lifestyle free of substances!  Be an active participant in this important Prevention Month by visiting the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) website for “Five Tips for Preventing Birth Defects” and downloading the entire 2021 toolkit!  For assistance with a substance use disorder, call the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’s Clinic at 585-593-6738. 

Remember, prevention works!

Catholic Charities Provides Local Support for Families

During this Holiday season, we are all experiencing much more stress and pressure than we are accustomed to.  Individuals and families are seeking help and comfort, and having to weed through so many sources of information.  So, where do we turn and how do we know what is best for us and our family?  Catholic Charities is one of many organizations that can help meet your needs, whatever they are.  Offices in Wellsville and Olean are open to serve families in Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties.

Families may be struggling financially, maybe because parents are missing work due to kids being quarantined, or maybe because offices or workplaces have had to close.  Catholic Charities can help to cover your past due rent and utility bills.  We have gas cards to get you to your appointments and grocery gift cards to get those last items on your list that your paycheck just didn’t cover.  The Joyce Family Food Pantry is open Monday, Thursday and Friday, and will provide you with a food box to feed your family for several days, to help stretch your grocery budget.  Household cleaning supplies and personal care items are available as well. The thrift store at 67 East Pearl Street in Wellsville is open Tuesday and Wednesday, where you can find clothing for the whole family, household goods and more. 

For those seeking connection with others, due to the isolation of staying at home to feel safe, working from home, or spending more time at home because kids are attending school virtually, Catholic Charities offers multiple options.  Coping with COVID groups and Grief support groups are offered virtually through Zoom to provide a safe way of talking with others with similar experiences and to learn how to cope together.  We have support and case management services for grandparents or others caring for a non-biological child in their home through our Kinship Caregiver program.  Support groups for the adults and the kids are offered in person and virtually, and there are monthly family activities as well. 

Catholic Charities can offer individual help when the stress, anxiety and isolation become too overwhelming.  Our licensed counselors are able to meet individuals aged 5 up to older adults in person at our offices in Wellsville and Olean, or by secure video or phone as well.  Counselors can help to build new and healthy ways of coping with the overwhelming emotions, work with parents to learn how to best support their children, or even just provide a safe and private place to talk about what you’re experiencing.

One of the lessons learned since the beginning of this Pandemic is the importance of reaching out to our neighbors for support, and to recognize all of the great resources in our region.  Know that there is help for whatever you are experiencing, and that you are not alone. 

Call us at Catholic Charities in Wellsville at 585-593-2015 or in Olean at 716-372-0101 to find out how we can help you. Catholic Charities is member of Family Matters a subcommittee of PPAC to get information on events, activities, and resources follow Family Matters on Facebook.

Upcoming Events and Resources for Families:

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday. Remember Prevention Works!

Western New York Reality Check Names Student Art Contest Winners to Celebrate Great American Smokeout 2020

In coordination with this year’s Great American Smokeout (GASO), more than 30 students responded to honor the national event, observed today, November 19, this year. The Reality Check art contest focused on the dangers of tobacco use. Artists were encouraged to depict why they want their communities to establish a tobacco-free policy.

Students could submit art as a poster, comic, photo, video, or poem. The winning artwork was selected by Reality Check youth coordinators based upon creativity, use of messaging and originality.

Warsaw High School youth artist Payton was named the first-place winner of the poster contest. Her art depicted a person in the foreground being snuffed out with a giant cigarette with the headline: “Put It Out Before It Puts You Out.” The strong messaging and the lifelike image of the hand struck the jury. Second prize was awarded to Jerzie, a student at Falconer High School, who portrayed a tombstone of her great grandmother with the headline, “I Never Knew You Because Of Cigarettes.” Southwestern Middle School youth artist Meredith poster had the message of “Don’t You Recognize Me Anymore” which shows a smoking skeleton with black lungs.

Selena, of Fillmore Central was awarded first place in the poem category for a piece titled,

“Smoke Out.”

All forms of tobacco are bad.

Sometimes they can make you sad.

What’s the point of ruining your life.

You don’t want to kill the wildlife.

Cigarette butts pollute the earth.

And they affect birth.

Ask for help.

Before you ruin what’s in your scalp.

Kyra, of the Olean High School was awarded first place for video category by depicting nicotine addiction and health issues through dinosaurs.

“Talented students from across the region responded to our art contest, which made judging a challenge,” said Jonathan Chaffee, Reality Check Coordinator of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany. “I hope the efforts of our students will inspire others to think about the health impacts of tobacco use, refrain from littering cigarette butts and vape pods, and protect our community members, as well as spaces where we all live, work and play, for generations to come.”

The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout is an annual event that encourages and offers support to smokers to who plan to quit smoking or to quit smoking on the day of the event – Thursday, November 19. By quitting – even for one day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.

With COVID-19 concerns, there has never been a better time to quit. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the lungs. In addition to causing lung cancer, smoking also makes chronic lung disease worse and increases the risk of severe illness from infections like pneumonia and the flu. Adults who smoke have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as well.

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.

GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT

Thursday, November 19th, marks the 45th Great American Smokeout, a day set aside for smokers and other tobacco users to abstain for at least one day, in hopes that people will quit completely.  The idea began in 1971 when Arthur Mullaney, a Massachusetts resident, asked people to quit smoking for a day and donate the money they would have spent on tobacco to a local school.  Shortly after Monticello Times editor Lynn Smith led Minnesota’s first “D-Day” (Don’t Smoke Day), the American Cancer Society’s California chapter encouraged nearly one million smokers to quit for the day on November 18, 1976.  Due to the success in California, the ACS took the event nationwide in 1977, maintaining the third Thursday in November as the target date.

So why in 2020, during a pandemic, do we continue to focus on issues like smoking and vaping?  The Great American Smokeout (GASO) draws attention to preventing the deaths and chronic illnesses caused by smoking and vaping. It also still serves as a motivator for individuals to quit smoking (even for a day). An important side benefit of this day is that it has also served to help motivate individuals, organizations, State and Federal governments to begin to explore and enact legislation and policies on tobacco product advertising, marketing to children and tobacco-free environments. 

Many states have now enacted strong tobacco control laws that have helped drive positive change. Cigarette smoking has declined over the past fifty years, from 42% in 1965 to 13.7% in 2019, but the declines have not benefitted our population equally. Some groups smoke more heavily or at higher rates and suffer more from smoking-related diseases.  These populations tend to be those who experience inequities in multiple areas of their lives, including those at lower socioeconomic levels, those without college degrees, American Indians/Alaska Natives, African American/Black communities, LGBTQ communities, those in the military, those with behavioral health conditions, and others.  Some of these inequities can be found right in Allegany County by looking at smoking and vaping rates of high school seniors. In New York State, 4.8% of high school students smoke cigarettes compared to 10.8% of high school students in Allegany County. Vaping rates are even more alarming: in New York State, 36.7% of high school seniors vaped, in Allegany County 38.5% of high school seniors vaped. The Allegany County percentages come from the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc.’s Risk and Protective Survey that is completed every two years by sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades throughout the county. When discussing adults, Allegany County ranks as one of the highest counties in New York as having high averages of death caused by lung cancer and heart disease, to which smoking is a large contributor.

32.4 million American adults still smoke cigarettes, and smoking is still the largest preventable cause of death and illness in our country and around the world. More than 480,000 deaths in the US are caused by smoking every year.   This is 20% of all deaths – every year.  To add to that misery, more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease. 

Research shows that smokers are most successful in “kicking the habit” when they have some means of support, such as nicotine replacement products, counseling, prescription medicines to lessen cravings, guide books, and the encouragement of friends and family members.

“Chew on This: The Need to Engage Your Mouth and Hands After Quitting,” article by the Quitter’s Circle Staff on 3/10/15 cites that a common theme among ex-smokers and those trying to quit, can be fidgety hands and the need to chew gum, toothpicks, or other foods.  Some quitters miss the sensation of a cigarette in their hands or between their teeth.  Testimonials often reveal that smokers become used to having a cigarette in their mouths.  The habit of picking up a cigarette and placing it between one’s lips becomes a routine of comfort.  In addition, the habit of moving one’s hand from cigarette to mouth is repeated so often that quitters and those attempting to quit feel the need to do something with their hands.  This article is one of many that contains this kind of information.  

In light of this, it would stand to reason that e-cigarettes are not an effective cessation tool for most people, as the hand-to-mouth habit of using an e-cigarette reinforces the behavior that potential quitters are aiming to break.  The use of an e-cigarette, which replicates the experience of smoking, may be a drawback to quitting.  Harvey B. Simon, MD, editor of “Harvard Health,” stated in an article dated 9/22/11 that, “By simulating the cigarette experience, e-cigarettes may reactivate the habit in ex-smokers.”

Communities, landlords, and employers can also help smokers become successes in quitting. Communities can make public places tobacco free, such as parks. This can have three desired effects: one, it encourages current smokers to quit; two, it models appropriate behavior to young people so they never start using tobacco products; three, it protects our environment from tobacco litter. Studies have shown that one cigarette butt can litter 500 liters of water, which exceeds 132 gallons. Landlords can make their apartment buildings smoke free, which encourages smokers to quit and protects residents from secondhand and thirdhand smoke, which is dangerous to humans and animals. The last policy change can be implemented by employers to make their workplace and even their vehicles tobacco free, which encourages tobacco users to quit. It is estimated that smoking causes over seven billion dollars in productivity losses each year in New York State alone. All three of these policies have been proven to be an effective way to encourage current tobacco users to quit and discourage young people from starting. 

More information on these policies can be found at tobaccofreenys.org, or through Tobacco Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany by emailing Community Engagement Coordinator Ken Dalhgren at kenneth.dahlgren@roswelpark.org.

According to the ACS, 1 in 5 deaths in the United States is smoking related, and 87% of lung cancer deaths are attributed to smoking.  Lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer death, is also the most preventable.  If you would like to “kick the habit”, but you are not sure what steps to take, call the Allegany Council at 585-593-1920, x 713, for tips on how to quit and stay quit.  Assistance is also available for users of smokeless tobacco.

Don’t allow yourself to become a replacement smoker or a statistic…join millions of Americans today on a journey to a healthier you!

Resources

The Hidden Addiction Among Veterans and Active Duty Members

November, particularly the 11th, is dedicated to commemorating the men and women who have served in the U.S. Military.  As a country, we strive to honor and protect these individuals after returning to civilian life.  While there are many mental health and addiction resources available throughout the nation, one issue usually remains hidden.  Problem gambling, or any time gambling causes financial, vocational, mental, or interpersonal problems in one’s life, is an issue that affects roughly two million Americans.  However, Veterans have elevated rates of problem gambling—at least twice the rate as the general adult population (Westermeyer et al., 2013). Additionally, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates that as many as 56,000 active duty members of the Armed Forces meet the criteria for Gambling Disorder.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5, a diagnosis of gambling disorder requires at least four of the following during the past year:

  1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
  2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
  4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
  5. Often gambling when feeling distressed
  6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
  7. Lying to conceal gambling activity
  8. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
  9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling

Compared to the national population, problem gambling may not seem like a priority.  However, problem gambling can impact up to 55% of the population.  It is estimated that each individual struggling with problem gambling can impact up to 10 additional people. On top of that, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions.  “About 50% of those with disordered gambling have had suicidal thoughts. Over 17% of these individuals have attempted suicide,” (Moghaddam et al., 2015).  Problem gambling is also extremely underreported and low screening rates, especially in the military, remain a barrier.  Some initial screening tools that are available include the “Lie Bet” and the “Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen” which provide basic questions on gambling habits.

What can we do to better assist veterans and active duty members who might have a gambling problem?

  • Increase Screenings for Problem Gambling during routine visits and follow up
  • Complete screenings after deployment and before reenlisting
  • Offer education and information about gambling related harms
  • Provide a safe space to discuss need for support
  • Recommend alternatives to gambling on base and at program sites

If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling, contact the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center at (716) 833-4274 or email us directly at WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org

Allegany County Participates in National Take Back Day

Bolivar and Cuba, NY – October 24, was the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Like so many communities across the country, Allegany County had two locations at the Bolivar and Cuba Fire Departments where community members could drop off unwanted or expired medications.

Allegany County Sheriff Rick Whitney and Bolivar Police Chief Steve McPherson in front of medications brought in by a community member at the Bolivar Pill Drop.

The pill drop events have been taking place in Allegany County since 2008. This has been a partnership between the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Inc. (ACASA), and Partners for Prevention in Allegany County (PPAC). “These events are an outlet for community members to get rid of old or unused medications in a safe manner,” said Coalition Coordinator Jon Chaffee. “The pill drops are important to make sure that medications do not end up in our waterways or on our streets” said Chaffee.

This year, 41 cars participated, for a total of over 179 pounds of medications brought in by community members. These medications will end up being incinerated to make them inert. “Utilizing the DEA’s Take Back Day allows us to reach out to offer a needed resource to our communities and help educate about proper disposal of medications,” said Undersheriff Kevin Monroe.

Allegany County has ten Take It To The Box locations throughout the county at:

  • Alfred Pharmacy
  • Alfred State University Police
  • Allegany County Sheriff’s Office in Belmont
  • Cuba Police Department
  • Fillmore Pharmacy
  • Friendship Pharmacy
  • Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville
  • Jones Memorial Medical Practice in Bolivar
  • Nicholson Pharmacy
  • Wellsville Police Department.

“Pill drop boxes throughout the county are an asset and are being used quite often,” said Monroe. Community members were also educated about the opportunity to dispose to sharps at all Allegany County transfer stations free of charge.

The coalition would like to also thank Chief McPherson of the Bolivar Police Department and Chief Burch and Officer Tyler Phillippi of the Cuba Police Department for partnering with them on making the Take Back Day a successful one. For more information on Take Back Day, Take It To The Box locations, or sharps disposal, please visit www.ppaccentral.org and look under “Community” for more information.

Allegany Council Kicks Off October with the Bob Weigand Memorial Move-A-Thon

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.  On Saturday, October 3rd, the Prevention Department of the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc., held the 22nd annual Bob Weigand Memorial Move-a-Thon at the Angelica Village Office.  Twenty-one people and three dogs participated in this year’s Red Ribbon event, which is held every first Saturday in October in memory of Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was tortured and killed by drug traffickers in 1985.  The purpose of the Move-a-Thon is to promote a drug-free lifestyle through healthy alternatives, and to remind people to wear red ribbons in support of a drug-free America during Red Ribbon Week, October 23rd-31st.  This year’s theme is: “Be Happy.  Be Brave.  Be Drug Free.”

Bob Weigand had been born and raised in Horseheads, New York, and moved to Wellsville in 1978.  He had been a reporter for several newspapers in Elmira, Binghamton, Hornell, Syracuse, and Buffalo, and founded WJQZ Radio in 1986, where he served as station manager and news director.  In 1992, he was instrumental in establishing WZKZ Radio, where he remained as news director until retiring in 2006.  Bob was an active member in his church, in the Wellsville Lions Club, and Wellsville Volunteer Ambulance Corps. for over twenty years.  He served on the Allegany Council’s Board of Directors and was a staunch supporter of the recovery community.  When Bob lost his battle with cancer, the Council renamed the 5K after him for his all-around dedication to the community.  It is the silhouette of Bob and his dog, Kristen, that can be found on the Move-a-Thon T-shirt, as he faithfully attended the event with her, even after his cancer diagnosis.

This October, think about what you can do to promote a substance-free America.  One person can and does make a difference! 

Remember, prevention works!          

Risky Relationships: The Link Between Domestic Violence & Problem Gambling

Problem gambling may not be a common topic discussed during Domestic Violence Awareness Month; however, the link between domestic violence and problem gambling makes it important to bring awareness to this volatile relationship.

Domestic violence is defined as violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner, which may include physical violence; sexual, psychological, social, or financial abuse; harassment; and stalking.

A recent study of help-seeking gamblers found that forty-nine percent of participants reported being a victim of violence and 43% had perpetrated violence (Bellringer et al., 2017). A person with a gambling problem may experience intense mental and emotional distress which may be expressed through restlessness, irritability or violence. Someone’s gambling problem may also elicit similar distress from a loved one. The person gambling may be the perpetrator or victim of domestic violence.

Furthermore, there is already evidence that domestic violence increases during professional sporting events due to the emotions experienced from a “home team’s” upset loss, citing issues like consumption of alcohol, increased interactions with family during games, increased expectations for a positive outcome, and increased stress and anxiety. Our community, the state and the country are seeing increased availability and prevalence of sports gambling, daily fantasy sports, and the like. What happens when those high stakes are further intensified by having large sums of money on the line, potentially for multiple sporting events?

In many ways, this October is unlike any in the past, but some things remain constant – there are many people who will isolate themselves out of fear or shame and will not reach out for the help they need.  Domestic Violence Awareness Month gives us an opportunity to offer hope to those experiencing violence in the home.

Problem gambling and domestic violence can impact anyone. If you are experiencing domestic violence or problem gambling, confidential services are available:

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) Local Allegany County residents can contact the 24 Hour Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-593-5322 or find local resources at ACCORD Corp.

Western Problem Gambling Resource Center: 716-833-4274 The Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) is a program of the New York Council on Problem Gambling dedicated to addressing the issue of problem gambling within New York State. The vision of the PGRC is the positive transformation of lives harmed by problem gambling. The PGRC focuses efforts on increasing public awareness of problem gambling; connecting clients with treatment, recovery and support services; working with the gaming industry to promote responsible gambling; and promoting healthy lifestyles which foster freedom from problem gambling. Visit NYProblemGamblingHELP.org to learn more about the PGRC network

Seen Enough Tobacco Day – “Spirit Week”

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.