Students deliver tobacco-free message

Cierra Mason, Veronica Shults, Erin Quigley, Samuel Cruz and Aislynn Ward, all Fulton County residents, pose in front of a map of the state that depicts the type of tobacco and point-of-sale marketing youth are exposed to across the state. (Photo submitted)

ALBANY — Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery Counties and local youth advocates recently met with state lawmakers with the message that the New York state tobacco control program saves lives and money, according to a news release.

New York state tobacco control programs have been proven to reduce youth smoking and help current smokers quit, which saves lives and millions of state tax dollars. However, higher rates of smoking persist among individuals with less than a high school education (22.4 percent), income less than $25,000 a year (22.2 percent), and those with poor mental health (27.2 percent).

“We’ve made great strides in combatting the tobacco epidemic, but more work needs to be done to reduce the significantly higher smoking rates among disparate populations in our region and throughout the state,” said Sarah Kraemer, Reality Check coordinator in the release.

That’s the message Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties and Reality Check youth delivered to state lawmakers in Albany on Feb. 7, according to the release. Aislynn Ward and Cierra Mason of PTECH, and Erin Quigley, Samuel Cruz and Veronica Shults of Gloversville Middle School participated in the legislative visit with Assemblyman Marc Butler’s aide.

Annually, the group visits the state Capitol to educate lawmakers about the success of established tobacco control programs and opportunities to further reduce the burden of tobacco addiction on New Yorkers. They described the valuable work being done in Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties to reduce smoking rates and to keep youth from starting smoking, which begins at 13 years old, on average.

The state tobacco control program is made up of a network of statewide contractors who live and work in the communities they serve. These are Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities that includes Community Engagement and Reality Check programs, Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free New York and the state Smokers’ Quitline.

The New York State Tobacco Control Program uses a policy-driven, population-based approach designed to prevent youth from smoking and to motivate adult smokers to quit. The efforts are leading the way toward a tobacco-free society.

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By Patricia Older

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