For many years, the tobacco industry has viewed today’s teens as tomorrow’s customers, using menthol flavored products to attract and addict teens.

In fact, studies show it’s working. More than half of teens ages 12 to 17 who smoke, use menthol cigarettes. The reality is that, there’s nothing ‘just’ about menthol and that’s why Tobacco Free CNY is working to raise awareness and educate the next generation.

Youth Engagement Educator Antonio Palmer says Tobacco-Free CNY and statewide partners are kicking off their latest campaign to not only educate, but make a difference in the way students see tobacco products. The campaign speaks from the youth perspective, blending powerful imagery with direct quotes by tobacco executives to highlight the strong contrast between how the industry views youth and how youth see themselves. The goal of the campaign is to not only educate but encourage teens to stop and think before using tobacco products, he says. It’s also one of the ways that both organizations hope to advocate for and reach teens on a new level.

When New York State ended the sale of flavored e-cigarette sales statewide in May of 2020, it was a significant step towards reducing youth tobacco use. However, other flavored tobacco products, such as combustible menthol cigarettes, continue to drive youth initiation of tobacco and present an obstacle to decreasing tobacco use among young people and underserved populations.

Reality Check is a statewide youth program that works to engage and educate local stakeholders, community leaders, and the public to strengthen tobacco and e-cigarette policies that prevent and reduce tobacco and vape use. The program serves Onondaga, Oswego, and Cayuga counties and focuses on reducing youth exposure to harmful tobacco and e-cigarette marketing in retail settings, limiting exposure to secondhand smoke, and reducing smoking imagery in the media.

To learn more about the camp gain, visit NotJustMenthol.org. You can also learn more at TobaccoFreeCNY.org.