This post was sponsored by Tobacco Free New York State as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. All opinions expressed in my post are my own.
My daughter is almost fourteen years old, and my son is sixteen. So when I found out that the average age of a new smoker in New York State is thirteen, that really hit home. My own kids are older than the average age when a kid in our state first tries cigarettes! In some ways I still think of them as babies, but of course, they’re not. They both get on public transportation each morning and are gone all day. I no longer know what they’re doing at all times, and I just have to trust that they’re making the best choices. But I would like to tip the odds in their favor as much as possible. And there’s something reasonable that New York State can do to help.
I’ve lived in New York State for almost my entire life. I grew up in Buffalo, all the way on the western tip of NYS, near Niagara Falls and Canada.
Now I live in Brooklyn, all the way on the other side of the state.
But no matter where in NYS you are, smoking is still a thing. It’s much less of a thing than it used to be, but people still smoke. And they tend to start young.
Back in my day…
Compared to when I was a teenager in Buffalo, my kids have it so much better when it comes to how many of their friends smoke. I remember walking past the “smoking corner” outside of my high school every morning. There were usually dozens of students standing at the end of the gate smoking (technically, off of school property), and sometimes a teacher or two would join them! Back then it seemed like everybody but me smoked. Several of my best friends did, so I was around it a lot. Plus, you could buy cigarettes everywhere, and nobody really asked how old you were. When one of my friends was in middle school, she used to go to the corner store to buy cigarettes for her mom!
At least now there are more rules in place (or they’re enforced better), and I can tell just by walking past local high schools that things have changed for the better since I was a student. Cigarette packs carry mandatory warnings, cigarette companies can no longer sponsor music and sports events, and they can’t put their logos on clothes and hats. The MPAA even takes smoking into account when giving ratings to movies – if you’re glamorizing smoking, get ready for an R rating!
Sign the petition!
But one thing that hasn’t changed? My kids—all kids—can still walk into a store and see a huge array of cigarettes and other tobacco products on display. And while I’ve tried really hard to drill into them just how dangerous smoking is, I feel like displaying cigarettes behind the counter continues to normalize tobacco products. They’re right there with the batteries and the gum. Tobacco companies spend big money for that placement, to get their products in front of as many eyeballs as they legally can.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and you can help tighten up the laws in New York State around tobacco displays. Sign the petition from Seen Enough Tobacco to make stores keep cigarettes and other tobacco products out of sight. No more free advertising behind the counter! If tobacco companies can’t advertise on TV or billboards, why do our kids have to look at tobacco ads when they go to the store? Tobacco advertising laws have come a long way, but the fight isn’t over yet. Not as long as thirteen-year-olds are still trying cigarettes.
Signing the petition will take you about fifteen seconds – maybe thirty if you type slowly. Then, you can share the petition: on Twitter and Facebook, on local listservs, with your friends and family. And if you want to do more? The Seen Enough Tobacco website has other resources, like how to talk to your kids about smoking, and how to contact the local groups that are helping in this fight.
Want even more information about the Seen Enough Tobacco campaign? You can find a ton more information on the Tobacco Free NYS website, and connect with them on their social channels: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.