May 31, 2011
By Kumi Tucker

WATERVLIET — These are the students that anti-smoking advocates do not want to see become “replacement smokers,” the new, young consumers who replace those who have quit or died.

This group of teenagers at Watervliet Junior Senior High School is showing their resistance to the advertising that targets them in stores.

Watervliet Junior Jessica Mahoney says they have already made a difference in the shops around her school.

“We walked around and saw the whole store would be covered with tobacco advertisements, so we went in and talked to them and a lot of them agreed to take them down,” said Mahoney.

Anti-smoking advocates are determined to reach people at a young age because they say big tobacco is spending millions of dollars to get to them, too.

“If you do not start smoking by the time you’re 19, you’re not going to become a smoker,” said Janine Stuchin, Project Manager with Southern Adirondack Tobacco-Free Coalition.  “And historically, tobacco companies have targeted young people and continue to target young people.”

Tech Valley High School Senior James Hazzard is Reality Check Youth Advocate of the Year.

“Basically what caught for me is I have little sisters,” said Hazzard.  “When we go into the store, they see the ads that are hanging there and they notice them and it bothers me, because that’s how tobacco companies are coming in and showing little kids.”

The smoking rate for high school students in New York State is almost 15%.