Reality Check Students Meet With State Lawmakers

By: Grady Thompson

Reality Check students meet with state lawmakers Tobacco-Free Chenango's Reality Check youth from Bainbridge-Guilford and Norwich High Schools with Assemblyman Cliff Crouch at the Capitol on February 4. (Submitted photo)

BAINBRIDGE – Tobacco-Free Chenango's Reality Check youth from Bainbridge-Guilford and Norwich High Schools visited Albany last Monday to meet with state lawmakers to discuss their work towards lowering the statewide smoking rate and also unmet tobacco control needs.

Reality Check youth leaders Mackenzee Barton, Nicole McKay, and Carly Palmer from Bainbridge-Guilford High School, and Ethan Conroy and Katlyn Gould from Norwich High School met with Assemblyman Cliff Crouch and Senator Fred Akshar for Legislative Education Day at the Capitol on February 4 to discuss local tobacco control efforts and the unmet needs of low-income communities.

"The fact that they were willing to sit down and actually listen to us was really, really nice of them, especially in their busy lives," said McKay, who noted that the trip required a lot of preparation and rehearsals on behalf of the Reality Check youth.

Each of the students spoke to Akshar and Crouch on a variety of tobacco-related topics, including big tobacco companies targeting youth in their marketing, the belief that movies including smoking should be rated 'R', and also about the Reality Check of Norwich and Bainbridge's upcoming Community Ice Skating Party, which the students have given the slogan, 'Skate––Don't Vape.'

While cigarette smoking trends in youth have declined 82 percent since 2000, the trends show a slight increase in youth smoking from 2016 to 2018. Furthermore, electronic cigarette use in youth has risen drastically––160 percent between 2014 to 2018.

The students said they have seen a rise of electronic cigarette usage with their classmates, and that a good percentage of their peers have misconceptions about its safety relative to cigarettes.

"[An electronic cigarette] still has the same substances in it," said Barton, who spoke to lawmakers about big tobacco targeting youth and how the age of the new average smoker in New York State is 13. "The things that get you are the flavors and the smells of it."

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