CNY Youth Make the Case for a Tobacco-Free Generation

Jul 20, 2017

Some of the youth involved in Reality Check sit in front of signs and pinwheels that call attention to tobacco-use statistics.
Credit Provided Photo/Dianne Patterson / Reality Check

About 150 teens from across the state have just wrapped up an annual summit in Cazenovia that aimed to completely eliminate tobacco use among youth.  The Reality Check event included a number of activities that highlighted tobacco use statistics.  Cortland High School graduate Katie Couture says they have been working on leadership skills and helping their community learn the facts.

“We’re letting people know that the tobacco industry is doing bad things and that we need to put a stop in it before things get worse and more people lose their lives from tobacco and all of the side effects that come along with smoking.”

Junior at Madison Central School in Madison County Brendan Hysell has been taking a stand against tobacco since he was 13. He says tobacco companies have a very specific target.

By inserting "Solo" cups in a chain link fence, youth crafted a powerful message demonstrating their opposition to tobacco use and tobacco marketing.
Credit Provided Photo/Dianne Patterson / Reality Check

“The tobacco companies spend a half million dollars a day in New York alone.  There’s actually three times more tobacco advertising near schools, so they’re obviously trying to target youth.  I simply want a tobacco free generation.  I think if we work hard enough, we can achieve that.”

Hysell says he got involved in Reality Check after watching loved ones bear the harmful effects of smoking.

“I’ve been involved for four or five years now.  My dad was a smoker and he started to have respiratory problems and I knew tobacco was bad and I wanted to help him and help other people.”

Youth used chalk to outline bodies and wrote facts and stats on the sidewalk to raise awareness about the tobacco industry's marketing and its effects on young people.
Credit Provided Photo/Dianne Patterson / Reality Check

Hysell says people his age smoke because they do not understand the seriousness or even consider the health risks. Katie Coture agrees. She says while the number of teens who smoke cigarettes has gone down, many have turned to vaping. She says some vape shops have opened in her town.  

“Well a lot of the teens now a days think that with vaping there’s nothing wrong with it, that’s there no nicotine in it, but that’s not true there is nicotine in it and it can be just as addictive as having a regular cigarette everyday.  But a lot of kids just think it’s cool, they don’t see anything wrong with it.”

Couture says despite the low number of teen smokers, the starting age for cigarette smoking is still as young as 13. She says she hopes to change this so her nieces and nephews won’t be subjected to tobacco advertisement or the false romance surrounding cigarette smoking. More information is at More information is at 

Youth placed colorful pinwheels in the ground reflecting startling tobacco use statistics. 230 pinwheels represented the number of teens who start smoking each week in New York.
Credit Provided Photo/Dianne Patterson / Reality Check