E-Cigarettes are NOT harmless.

No matter what you call them: e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookahs, mods, tanks, e-pipes, electronic nicotine delivery systems(ENDS), or electronic aerosol delivery systems(EADS) they all have the same purpose: to simulate using a regular tobacco product.


E-cigarettes were first marketed as a product that was to be used as a cessation device to help people quit smoking traditional tobacco products and the vapor was made up of water. We now know that e-cigarette vape is more than water vapor and does contain carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals. The amount of carcinogens in e-cigarette vape is less than regular cigarette smoke, which allows for the marketing of e-cigarettes as “less harmful.”  “Less harmful” still means they are harmful. It has been recommended that if daily smokers would switch from regular cigarettes to just using e-cigarettes it would be healthier for them. But, studies have shown that most people end up using both products, which does not help their health and usually increases their nicotine intake per day, making it harder to quit in the long term.

The other major concern with the popularity of these products is that the youth rate of using e-cigarettes has exploded. In 2016 the high school rate of smoking regular cigarettes has dropped to an all- time low of 4.3% in New York State, but e-cigarette use amongst high schoolers has risen to 20.6%. In Allegany County these rates are 8.2% for cigarette use and 43.5% for e-cigarettes among high schoolers.

There are many reasons that e-cigarettes are popular with youth:

  • Availability of different flavors.
  • Ability to do tricks.
  • Thought of NOT being dangerous compared to regular tobacco products.
  • Marketing on tv, magazines, internet, social media, and in stores.
  • E-cigarettes have replaced cigarettes as a way of making a social statement.
  • Being part of a subculture and not part of mainstream society.

Most people will argue that they would rather have their son or daughter use an e-cigarette instead of traditional cigarettes, but studies have shown that young people who use e-cigarettes are over eight times more likely to transition to traditional cigarettes after one year than non-users of e-cigarettes.  Some e-juice also contains nicotine, which is highly addictive and changes the development of the adolescent brain, which does not stop maturing until age twenty-five.

One big step in the right direction is that New York State’s Assembly and Senate has passed adding e-cigarettes to the Clean Indoor Air Act. If a product is going to be used or deemed okay to use, one should know about that product. More information can be found at  https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/2016_SGR_Fact_Sheet_508.pdf.

Remember, Prevention Works!

Reality Check Youth Summit

new_rc_logo_finalJuly is always a month full of celebration, we are celebrating our country on July 4th or newly graduated young people. July is also a month that Reality Check members from across New York State come together at Youth Summit and celebrate accomplishments in their local communities. These accomplishments could include getting a municipality’s parks to become tobacco free, a housing complex to pass a smoke free policy for all of their apartments, or a county to raise the age to purchase tobacco from eighteen to twenty-one. All of these types of accomplishments focus on one thing tobacco.

Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Over 28,000 New Yorkers die each year from their own smoking, This 28,000 does not include the people who are nonsmokers and their health is affected by being exposed to secondhand smoke. There are twelve types of cancer related to tobacco use, but what a lot of people do not realize is that smoking can also cause heart disease, stroke, and diabetes among other things.

Brain.SmokerTobacco use in teens can be more detrimental by exposing youth to the very addictive drug known as nicotine. Nicotine is usually the first addictive drug that youth experience, which activates receptors in the brain releasing dopamine to give them the feeling of pleasure and reward, which can lead to trying other drugs that create this same feeling. Nicotine is also known to change how the adolescent brain develops. These changes increase: risk-taking, impulsivity, and vulnerability to initiation and subsequent addiction to drugs. Nicotine exposure to an adolescent brain also can cause incomplete development of the pre-frontal cortex, which controls decision making, impulse control and executive function.

Tobacco.Money.BurningTobacco use also hits the pocket book. Annual healthcare cost in New York State caused by smoking is over $10,000,000,000. Medicaid cost caused by smoking in New York State is over $6,000,000,000. This means that residents of New York State pay $1,462.00 per household in state and federal taxes due to smoking-caused government expenditures. Finally, productivity loss in New York State caused by smoking is over $7,000,000,000.

As you can see from what you have read previously, tobacco use affects everyone in some way. For these previous issues, the work that Reality Check youth does across the state is a reason to celebrate. These youth are taking an active role in their communities and participating in making it a healthier place to live for all community members. For more information on Reality Check visit www.realitycheckofny.com or follow your local Reality Check on Facebook and Instagram at RealityCheckJon.

National ASK(Ask Saves Kids) Day

Ask.Day.LogoThe ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign promotes a simple idea with the potential to help keep kids safe. ASK, “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?” before sending your child over to play. According to ASK, one out of three American homes with children has a gun, and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun. Every year thousands of kids are killed and injured as a result. We hear about this in the news all the time.
As a concerned community member and mom/stepmom to five amazing children, I don’t want to imagine my life with them being hurt emotionally or physically. My biological daughter lives with us full time. She is getting to know classmates in her new school and is looking forward to spending time with them over the summer. My husband and I have a rule that we meet the parents of her friends before allowing her to spend time at their home.

According to Kids Safe Foundation, there are seven questions every parent should ask before a play date/sleepover:

  1. Who will be watching the children?
  2. Do you have older children and will they or their friends be present?
  3. Do you have a gun in your house?
  4. What safety rules do you have in your house?
  5. Will you be staying at your house? What is the plan?
  6. Is the TV and internet use monitored?
  7. What are the sleeping arrangements?

National Ask Kids Day is the perfect time to ask your children specific questions about their friends, their friends’ parents, and the safety of the homes they spend time in. I would love to be with our children everywhere they go, but it’s not reality. Between school, sports, child care, church, and social events, there are countless opportunities for unsafe situations to present themselves. It is our job as parents to prepare our kids with proactive conversations and open the doors of communication.

One topic that can be especially scary for parents is personal safety and body boundaries. When it comes to protecting our children, certain conversations are easy and even natural to have. “Stranger Danger” is a term we all know, but when 95% of molested children know their perpetrator, teaching them about “tricky people” is much more effective.

What do I mean by tricky people? Janelle Durham, social worker, childbirth educator, co-author, and curriculum designer, goes into substantial detail about this in her blog article Teaching about “Tricky People” vs. “Stranger Danger”.  Thankfully there are reliable resources available to help us understand and incorporate these concepts when discussing safety with our children, such as SAFE Hearts by Damsel in Defense.

But I digress. Huffington Post reports since the ASK Campaign was launched in 2000, there are now “900 fewer children and teenagers killed with guns each year. The same report also shows that unintentional gun deaths among children ages 19 and younger have decreased by more than a third — down 42 percent since 1999.” Teaching our children about safety – all forms of it – is vital to a healthy community.

What will you do to make a difference? 

 National ASK Day is coming up next Wednesday, June 21. They will hold “The World’s Largest Playdate” in communities across the country to bring attention to the dangers of youth access to guns in the home. If you would like to be part of that effort or to join Brady, the Million Mom March, and the growing list of organizations committed to making our children safer, pledge to add your voice at AskingSavesKids.org.

By RaChelle Glauser-Sharpe

Teen Smoking in Allegany County Still an Issue

ACASAThe Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Inc.(ACASA), just recently released their 2017 findings on tobacco use amongst 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th students in Allegany County. The Allegany County High School smoking rate of cigarettes is 8.2% compared to the statewide rate of 4.3%. The Allegany County High School vaping rate of e-cigarettes is 43.4% compared to the statewide rate of 20.6%. Both of the Allegany County rates should be alarming as they are much higher than the overall statewide average. There is some good news though, as the senior smoking rate of cigarettes has dropped for three consecutive surveys. Unfortunately, the rates of regular cigars, small cigars, cigarillos, and e-cigarettes have all gone up. In conclusion, youth are still becoming addicted to nicotine through the use of other tobacco products.

There are many reasons that can be causing this shift: price of a pack of cigarettes compared to other tobacco products, media campaigns that discuss only the dangers of cigarette smoking, cigarettes can only contain menthol as a flavor and other tobacco products can have flavors that appeal to youth. Lastly, youth may see other tobacco products as more cool and hip to use instead of cigarettes. So the question is “How do we lower the use of tobacco products among youth in Allegany County?” There are plenty of options that can be taken at the local level such as limiting the number of tobacco retailers, not allowing tobacco retailers near schools, playgrounds, parks, and ball fields where youth hang out.

T21.LogoChautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties along with eight other counties in New York State and New York City have raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to twenty-one. This conversation is currently happening in Allegany County at the legislative level. Through the unanimous support of the Board of Health and the recommendation of the Heroin and Opioid Ad Hoc Committee, raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco is currently being discussed within the Human Services Committee.

Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco has become popular because the majority of youth under the age of eighteen who use tobacco products gain access to these products through older peers who are eighteen or nineteen and still in high school. By making it more difficult for youth to get tobacco products, their rate of use drops. In 2005, Needham, Massachusetts became the first municipality to implement twenty-one as the age to purchase tobacco.  Five years later their youth smoking rates dropped by almost half, and ten years later all of their tobacco retailers were still in business.


Lastly, why is youth tobacco use such an important topic? Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the world, killing over twenty-eight thousand New Yorkers each year. In Allegany County the leading causes of death are cancer and heart disease, which both can be caused by tobacco use. Secondly, the human brain does not stop developing until age twenty-five, and tobacco use is often the first exposure youth have to an addictive chemical. Once the brain has been turned on by the feelings of using an addictive chemical it is hard to stop, which leads to addiction, but also hard not to pursue stronger chemicals that cause a much stronger response in the brain.

For more information on raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to twenty-one please visit http://tobacco21.org/. Please let your Allegany County legislators know how you feel about raising the age to purchase tobacco to twenty-one. Their contact information can be found at http://www.alleganyco.com/government/legislators/.

Remember, prevention works!

National Prevention Week: Marijuana

marijuanaMarijuana (Cannabis)

Get facts on marijuana—the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S.—including its effects and information on marijuana surveillance, laws and policies, and prevention guides.

Marijuana, or Cannabis, refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, which contains the psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as other related compounds. This plant material can also be concentrated in a resin called hashish or a sticky black liquid called hash oil. THC is believed to be the main chemical ingredient that produces the psychoactive effect. Marijuana is often smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), pipes, or water pipes (bongs). People also smoke it in blunts, which are partly or completely emptied cigars filled with marijuana. Marijuana is also mixed in food (edibles) or brewed as tea.

The short-term effects of marijuana include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem-solving, and loss of coordination. Among youth, heavy cannabis use is associated with cognitive problems and increased risk of mental illness.

Learn more about marijuana.


Monitoring trends that impact health, such as trends in substance use, is important to inform services and policy. This is especially true for marijuana given recent changes in state laws and policies. SAMHSA tracks these trends using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). NSDUH collects information about the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, including marijuana, among noninstitutionalized people aged 12 or older in the United States.

Find historical NSDUH trend data from 2002 to 2014 on use, attitudes, and perceptions of marijuana at the national level, access the surveillance summary report in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and state level.

According to the NSDUH 2015 annual report – 2015 (PDF | 2.15 MB):

  • Marijuana use in the past month increased from 6.2% in 2002 to 8.3% (approximately 22.2 million people) in 2015 among people aged 12 or older.
  • Marijuana use was most prevalent among people aged 18 to 25 (with 19.8% using it in the past month)
  • 0% of people aged 12 to 17 reported marijuana use in the past month

Laws and Policies

State-level laws and policies on marijuana use (for recreational or medical use) have changed over the past decade; however it remains an illegal substance (Schedule I drug) under federal law. As state laws continue to change, the Department of Justice issued a guidance regarding marijuana enforcement – 2013 for federal prosecutors regarding marijuana enforcement under the Controlled Substance Act. In response to these and other emerging public health issues on marijuana, SAMHSA participates on the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (BHCC) to ensure that all of the mental health and substance use projects and programs that HHS operating and staff divisions lead are synchronized. The BHCC has various standing subcommittees, including one that addresses marijuana related issues.

National Prevention Week: Underage Drinking

Get the facts on alcohol and the impact abusing alcohol can have on people.

Slightly more than half of Americans aged 12 or older report being current drinkers of alcohol. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – 2014 (PDF | 3.4 MB) reports that in 2014 there were 139.7 million current alcohol users aged 12 or older, with 23% classified as binge drinkers and 6.2% as heavy drinkers. About 17 million of these, or 6.4%, met criteria for an alcohol use disorder in the past year. Excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking and binge drinking (drinking 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women), can increase a person’s risk of developing serious health problems, including brain and liver damage, heart disease, hypertension, and fetal damage in pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol use causes 88,000 deaths a year. Many Americans begin drinking at an early age. According to the SAMHSA report Behavioral Health, United States, 2012, about 24% of eighth graders and 64% of twelfth graders used alcohol in the past year.

According to the NSDUH:

  • Men are more likely to report heavy alcohol use (binge drinking for 5 or more of the past 30 days) than women, 9.3% to 3.2%.
  • The percentages of those aged 12 or older who were current heavy alcohol users were 7.1% of non-Hispanic whites, 4.5% of African Americans, 9.2% of American Indian or Alaska Natives, 4.6% of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders, 2.0% of Asians, 5.8% of people reporting two or more races, and 5.1% of Hispanics.
  • Only 8.9% of people aged 12 or older who needed treatment for alcohol use actually received specialty treatment for their alcohol use problem.

For more information on alcohol facts and its effects on your brain and body, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

For more information about the treatment of alcohol use disorders, including medication-assisted treatment, visit the Behavioral Health Treatments and Services topic. For more information about alcohol use disorders, see the Mental and Substance Use Disorders topic.

National Prevention Week: Tobacco

The first topic for National Prevention Week is tobacco use, which is fitting. Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death, killing almost six million people across the globe. Of that nearly six million people, twenty-eight thousand and two hundred of those people who die from their own smoking are New Yorkers. Even though smoking among teens overall has dropped across New York State, over 16.3% of Allegany County high school students still smoke cigarettes. E-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, and snuff are also popular tobacco products among Allegany County high schoolers.

To curb tobacco use among teens, the Allegany County Legislature is considering raising the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco products from eighteen to twenty-one, this amendment is called “Tobacco 21”.  If the legal age to purchase tobacco products is raised from eighteen to twenty-one, Allegany County would be the tenth county in New York State to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. Earlier in May, Tompkins County was the latest county to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to twenty-one. Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties have already raised the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco products and paraphernalia to twenty-one in 2016.

T21.LogoThe purpose of “Tobacco 21” is to cut the pipeline teens currently have to peers in high school who are eighteen or nineteen and can legally purchase tobacco products for them. Studies have shown that teenagers are more apt to get tobacco products from peers. On average youth try their first tobacco product at age thirteen and ninety percent of current smokers started by age 18.

images (1)Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs that a person can put in their body. It takes current smokers on average six attempts at quitting to become a successful nonsmoker. The other issue with using tobacco products at an early age is nicotine has unique effects on the developing brain.  The human brain does not stop developing until age twenty-five.

Tobacco or alcohol is usually the first experience that youth have with an addictive drug, which can eventually lead down the path to use of illicit drugs. By raising the minimum purchasing age from eighteen to twenty-one, it is protecting youth from becoming new daily smokers at an younger age and delaying a horrible addiction to nicotine.

If you or you know someone who is a current smoker and would like to quit contact Ann Weaver of the ACASA for free Cessation Services at (585) 593-1920 x713.

National Prevention Week

National.Prevention.Week.LogoThe week of May 14th marks National Prevention Week, a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.  This is an opportunity to join with other individuals, organizations, and coalitions in the community to promote prevention efforts, educate others about behavioral health issues, and create and strengthen community partnerships.  “Making Each Day Count” is this year’s theme.

National Prevention Week is held near the beginning of summer, due to the increased risk of substance use and abuse occurring at celebrations and recreational activities, including graduation parties, proms, weddings, and sporting events.  Schools are encouraged to initiate and participate in prevention-themed events before the end of the school year in order to raise awareness in students of all ages.  According to SAMHSA, the percentages of marijuana, cigarette, and alcohol use among youth increase between spring and summer (April-July), and the timing of this week helps educate both youth and their families at this crucial time of year.

Each day of that week highlights a specific topic.  May 15th is Prevention of Tobacco Use; 16th is Prevention of Underage Drinking and Alcohol Misuse; 17th is Prevention of Prescription and Opioid Drug Misuse; 18th is Prevention of Illicit Drug Use and Youth Marijuana Use; 19th is Prevention of Suicide; and the 20th is Promotion of Mental Health and Wellness.  For the last five years, community organizations across the country hosted health fairs, block parties, educational assemblies, town hall meetings, memorial walks, social media campaigns, and outdoor events.

SAMHSA.logoFor more information, visit SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week webpage. Help set the example that prevention works by promoting a safe and healthy spring and summer with positive alternatives to alcohol and other drug use!

National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

National.Teen.Pregnancy.Month.LogoThe month of May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. The Allegany County Department of Health is looking to spread awareness about prevention of teen pregnancy right here at home.

It is true that nationally, teenage pregnancy rates have declined over the past two decades by nearly two-thirds. Although the public measures this as a success, there is still work to be done because teen pregnancies continue to occur.

Teen pregnancies pose increased health risks to both mother and the baby. Teen mothers have a greater risk of low iron levels (anemia), high blood pressure, eclampsia, seizures, and depression. Their babies are more likely to be born early and with lower birth weights.

According to the New York State Department of Health in Allegany County, from 2012 to 2014, there were a total of 148 pregnancies to females aged 15 to 19 years old. These rates are concerning in a region where many mothers, regardless of age, struggle to pay bills. The community needs to come together to provide a collaborative effort in preventing teen pregnancies. High poverty rates and increased health risks for both mom and baby are just a few reasons.

It is important to educate teens on sexual health and also provide access to effective forms of birth control. The Centers for Disease and Control recommends that if teens are sexually active that they should be using a long term, reversible birth control option such as an intrauterine device(IUD) or a contraceptive implant.

Allegany.County.DOH.LOGOAllegany County Department of Health Family Planning Clinic provides services such as birth control, pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment along with many other services. For more information or an appointment, please call (585)-268-9250.



For more information on National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, visit https://thenationalcampaign.org/

Myths vs. Facts of Marijuana

As parents and/or concerned community members, are you confused about various messages you are seeing and hearing regarding marijuana? Read on, and be ready to address the following myths that youth and others hear and may believe.


Myth: Marijuana is not addictive.

Fact: Some people think that marijuana is not truly “addictive” or that people can’t become “hooked” on the drug, but research shows that about 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using before the age of 18, that number rises to 1 in 6.

Some of the signs that someone might be addicted include:

  • Unsuccessful efforts to quit using marijuana.
  • Giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.
  • Using marijuana even when it is known that it causes problems fulfilling everyday jobs at home, school or work.

People who are addicted to marijuana may also be at a higher risk of other negative consequences of using the drug, such as problems with attention, memory, and learning.

Researchers do not yet know the full extent of the consequences when the body and brain (especially the developing brain) are exposed to high concentrations of THC or how recent increases in potency affect the risk of someone becoming addicted.


Myth: Marijuana is SAFE to use and drive.

Fact: Marijuana compromises judgment and affects many other skills required for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Marijuana use makes it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. Marijuana is the most commonly identified illicit drug in fatal accidents (~14 percent of drivers).


Myth: Marijuana use is harmless.

Fact: Marijuana harms more than just those who use the drug. It also hurts the babies born to users. It hurts teen users who betray the trust of their parents, and it hurts the parents who are confused and dismayed by their kids’ use. Marijuana also hurts communities when users commit crimes or cause crashes on the highway. A roadside study of reckless drivers in Tennessee found that 33 percent of all subjects who were not under the influence of alcohol, and who were tested for drugs at the scene of their arrest, tested positive for marijuana.  In a 2003 Canadian study, one in five students admitted to driving within an hour of using marijuana. Marijuana also harms society by causing lost productivity in business, limiting educational attainment, and by contributing to illnesses and injuries that put further strain on the health care system.


Myth: My child or children are not exposed to marijuana.

Fact: It’s an unfortunate fact: If kids want marijuana, they can find it. More than half (55%) of youths age 12 to 17 responding to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2002 reported that marijuana would be easy to obtain. The survey indicated that most marijuana users got the drug from a friend, and that almost 9% of youths who bought marijuana did so inside a school building. Moreover, nearly 17% of the young people surveyed said they had been approached by someone selling drugs in the past month. The 2015 Risk and Protective Survey completed by local Allegany County seniors stated that 21% had smoked marijuana at least once in the past 30 days.

Kids are also exposed to a relentless barrage of marijuana messages in the popular culture-in music they listen to, the movies they watch, and the magazines they read. And then there’s the Internet, a crowded landscape of pro-marijuana and drug legalization Web sites. More often than not, the culture glamorizes or trivializes marijuana use and fails to show the serious harm it can cause. The easy availability of marijuana has been a concern for years. Since the Monitoring the Future Survey began in 1975, most high school seniors said they could obtain the drug fairly easily or very easily. Fortunately, non-use remains the norm, but an alarming number of young people have at least experimented with marijuana. The 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey found that 42% of all high school students nationwide had used marijuana at some time in their lives.

More Resources:

CDC: Marijuana

Parent’s Marijuana Brochure

Marijuana Myths & Facts: The Truth Behind 10 Popular Misconceptions

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Marijuana