Youth Advocate of the Year Award

The 2015 Youth Advocate of the Year Award application has been released.  Take your time to fill out the application with all of the work you’ve done with Reality Check and on your own to fight the influence of big tobacco in your community.

Applications must be submitted online by Monday, February 13th via formstack.

When writing your essays keep this in mind:

  • Advocacy:
    • What have you done to advocate for the Reality Check cause?
    • What legislators have you spoken with?  What message did you leave them with?
    • How has your advocacy experience affected your community?
    • What have you learned from your successes and failures?
  • Initiative
    • Have you suggested an idea for Reality Check that they used?
    • Have you helped create or taken the lead on part of an event for Reality Check?
    • Have you noticed something in your community and done something about it?
    • Give an example of a time you did something without your Reality Check coordinator asking you.  Did it work out?  Explain.
  • Impact of activities on protecting youth from tobacco
    • Tell about an activity you have been involved with. What were the results of your actions?
    • Do you have a personal story of affecting someone’s perspective on tobacco marketing?
  • Leadership
    • Have you ever involved another youth in Reality Check?
    • Have you mobilized your community members to work with you?
    • What qualities do you see in yourself that make you a leader?
  • Creative thinking and Problem Solving
    • Explain how you have used your creative thinking skills to spread the Reality Check message.
    • Explain how you have used your problem solving skills to solve a problem regarding tobacco in your community or with your Reality Check team.
  • Ability to communicate ideas effectively
    • Explain the methods of communication (verbal, written, social media, etc.) hou have personally used to communicate the Reality Check team.

Suggestions you should consider for your video

  • What specific skills do you have that make you a great advocate?
  • Why is being a youth advocate important to you?
  • How does your experience make you a successful youth advocate?


Reality Check programs across New York state came out to support the American Cancer Society’s  Great American Smoke Out and spread the word that quitting smoking is the single most important step you can take to improve your health.

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World No Tobacco Day Success

Reality Check youth advocates from all over the state celebrating World No Tobacco Day on Saturday, May 31st by educating their communities about the dangers of tobacco and tobacco marketing through activities in their local communities. From Schenectady to Binghamton to Plattsburgh and beyond, Reality Check advocates spoke up about tobacco marketing in their community. Check out the photos below to see some of the activities our advocates planned and participated in!

Reality Check to Denounce Discounts on World No Tobacco Day

Denounce Discounts on World No Tobacco Day

Reality Check partners across New York State will host events later this month for World No Tobacco Day. Every year, RC celebrates World No Tobacco Day as an opportunity to tell the tobacco industry that kids have seen enough tobacco marketing in their neighborhoods. The tobacco industry invests billions of dollars on tobacco marketing in retail stores including discounts to make tobacco more affordable.  These discounts are deadly because they bring death and disease to the people who use tobacco including more than 100,000 youth in New York State.

World No Tobacco Day on May 31 is an international day of advocacy sponsored by the World Health Organization.  It brings together people around the world to stand up against big tobacco and highlights strategies used to keep smokers from quitting and to recruit new customers, which are almost entirely youth. One key strategy of the tobacco industry is to spend billions of dollars each year to keep the price of tobacco as low as possible and negate the effect of the sales tax.  Smoking continues to be the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., killing more than 23,600 New Yorkers every year.

New York State Attorney General Supports Reality Check

Today, Reality Check groups across the state received the following letter of support from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman after we awarded the Office of the Attorney General with a Fame Award for their dedication to protecting youth from tobacco imagery on screen. The Attorneys General have played a crucial role in pressuring Hollywood to get smoking out of kids movies.

AG Letter Fame AwardOur relationship with our Attorney General is invaluable and we are so happy we have been able to create such lasting change together throughout the years. In our work with the Attorney General, we have been able to get tobacco ads out of magazines in elementary, secondary and high schools, keep teens from ordering tobacco products via USPS, reduce tobacco imagery on screen and now even possibly influence YouTube to adopt a policy about tobacco use.

Who says youth can’t create large scale change?

#RateItR: Twitter Chat Party on 4/17

Twitter Chat Party DraftCheck out our latest “CALL TO ACTION” and learn how you can join our Twitter Chat Party on April 17th from 4-5PM. Reality Check youth advocates across New York State will host a Twitter Party with other teen advocates and tobacco experts around the world to discuss smoking in youth-rated movies including the billions of tobacco impressions seen on screen each year.

We invite you to join our Twitter conversation as we continue to pressure the MPAA for an R rating.

Kick Butts Day 2014!


Tomorrow is Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco. As a teacher, youth leader or health advocate, you can organize events to raise awareness of the tobacco problem, encourage youth to stay tobacco-free and urge strong action to protect kids from tobacco.

Reality Check of New York is proud to participate in Kick Butts Day each year, hosting countless events across the state in local schools and community venues in collaboration with numerous local community based organizations and youth groups.

Here is a quick preview of some of the local events planned for Kick Butts Day 2014 across the state:

Albany, Schenectady & Rensselaer Counties – Albany, NY
Capital Region Reality Check and the Capital District Tobacco Free Coalition have partnered with local community coalitions and youth organizations to collect 245 shoes for an exhibit to represent the 245 New York teens who become daily smokers every week, with tobacco marketing being a primary cause. This exhibit will be on display from 3-6PM at Crossgates Mall, where there will also be educational activities, games and ways to take action to “Kick Tobacco Marketing to the Curb.”

Madison, Oneida & Herkimer Counties – Canastota, NY
Reality Check Central will be hosting a press conference at Canastota Central School where youth will share their concerns about tobacco marketing in their community. Syracuse University will also release the latest findings of stores that sell tobacco products in Madison, Oneida, and Herkimer County. Reality Check Central will also be at Sangertown Mall from 3-6PM with information and visuals about tobacco and tobacco marketing.

Clinton, Franklin & Essex Counties – Plattsburgh, NY
Reality Check will be “Airing Out Big Tobacco’s Dirty Laundry” at Champlain Centres Mall from 4:30-7:30PM. Reality Check members will display the numerous ways that the tobacco industry has lied, deceived and manipulated. They will also be taking over the airwaves on their local radio station, WIRY.

Hamilton, Fulton & Montgomery Counties – Canajoharie, NY
Reality Check will “Air Out Big Tobacco’s Dirty Laundry” at the Canajoharie Family Fun Day in addition to providing information about how their community can fight back against tobacco marketing.

Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie Counties – Delhi, NY
Reality Check youth at Delaware Academy are putting together a visual display in their school of the “Cost of Smoking” using visuals and money to show the cost and dangers of smoking. The money and displays will be donated to a local charity in the Village of Delhi. Reality Check youth have also been gracing the airwaves with their anti-tobacco industry message.

Staten Island, NY
All local tobacco control partners, including Reality Check, will participate in a Press Conference at a local high school, highlighting the ways that tobacco and tobacco marketing continue to affect young people. All tobacco control partners will share the work that they are doing locally and the work that still needs to be done. The Borough President will also be in attendance to speak to how tobacco is an ongoing problem in Staten Island.

Putnam County – Poughkeepsie, NY
Reality Check is partnering with the Hudson Valley Tobacco Free Partners on an event at the Poughkeepsie Galleria. Youth will participate in a flash mob about tobacco marketing in addition to having interactive displays and games.

Jefferson & Lewis Counties
Reality Check youth will outline 70 bodies in the snow to represent the 70 New Yorkers who die daily of tobacco related illnesses. They will also table at Salmon Run Mall in Watertown, NY on 3/22 where youth will educate their community.

Fame & Shame Awards Announced for International Week of Action

Smoking imagery in youth-rated movies is still common and a primary recruiter of teen smokers – just one of the many manipulative marketing tactics embraced by the tobacco industry.  Reality Check is joining youth around the world to create awareness about the way Hollywood encourages youth to smoke during the International Week of Action (February  24 to March 2), which coincides with the week leading up to the 86th Academy Awards.

For 10 years, Reality Check has been working to get Hollywood to eliminate smoking in youth rated movies with an “R” rating.

According to the Surgeon General’s 2014 Report, youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke; those who get the most exposure to on-screen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure. The report further states that actions that would eliminate the depiction of tobacco use in movies could have a significant effect on preventing youth from becoming tobacco users. PG-13 movies are the biggest concern since they accounted for nearly two-thirds of the smoking scenes adolescents saw on the big screen in 2012.

To celebrate International Week of Action and recognize the best and worst of smoke free movies, Reality Check youth from across New York State presented awards to movie studios, actors, and directors.



  1.  Walt Disney Studios
    Reality Check presents a 10th Anniversary Fame Award to Walt Disney Studios for providing family entertainment with a commitment to protecting youth from tobacco imagery.  Tobacco incidents have almost disappeared from Disney’s G and PG movies.  We salute Walt Disney Studios for adopting a policy to keep smoking out of youth-rated movies and producing movies like “Saving Mr. Banks” without tobacco imagery despite the historical use of tobacco by the lead character, Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks.


  2. Stanton A. Glanz & Jono Polansky, Smoke Free Movies Network
    Reality Check presents a 10th Anniversary Fame Award to Stanton A. Glanz and Jono Polansky of the Smoke Free Movies Network for their tireless dedication to working to protect youth from tobacco imagery in movies.  The Smoke Free Movies Network is a project of Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.  Jono Polansky works with Professor Glanz and consults with UCSF on tobacco control strategy.  Together they use research, commentary and information about the deadly consequences of tobacco imagery in movies and its recruitment of young smokers to apply ongoing pressure on the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to change its rating system and rate movies with smoking R.

  3. National Association of Attorneys General & The New York State Attorney General’s Office
    Reality Check presents a 10th Anniversary Fame Award to the National Association of Attorneys General and The New York State Attorney General’s Office in appreciation of their dedicated staff and resources to addressing tobacco imagery in youth-rated movies.  For more than 10 years, Attorneys General have been urging movie studios and the MPAA to reduce youth exposure to tobacco in movies.


  1. Film Director Woody Allen
    Reality Check presents a Shame Award to film director Woody Allen for his complete disregard for youth and their exposure to tobacco imagery in his movies.  As a director, Allen decides what appears on screen and could easily avoid the use of tobacco in youth-rated movies, but chooses not to.  His most recent and blatant support of tobacco came in 2013 when he cancelled the release of his film “Blue Jasmine” in India because he refused to air an anti-tobacco message prior to the film as required by India’s Ministry of Health


  2. Actor Johnny Depp
    Reality Check presents a Shame Award to Actor Johnny Depp for allowing the popular animated character he voiced, Rango, to smoke in the movie by the same name. Rango is an animated film rated PG, intended for youth and widely seen by young audiences. This film included more than 60 smoking instances on screen including smoking by Rango, the hero and main character of the film.


  3. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio
    Reality Check presents a Shame Award to Actor Leonardo DiCaprio for making smoking look cool on screen in the PG-13 rated movie “The Great Gatsby”.  While the novel “The Great Gatsby” only mentions smoking 8 times, this new 3D  version includes more than 150 smoking instances despite the reality that Americans smoked less in 1922 than they do now.  Tragically, this film has already delivered 2.5 billion tobacco impressions to audiences including youth.


The 10th Anniversary Ultimate Shame Award:
Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA)

For 10 years, Reality Check has joined with other youth across the U.S. to encourage the MPAA to change its rating system to trigger an R rating when tobacco imagery is part of a film.  In 2007, the MPAA announced that it would “consider” smoking in its film ratings, but has yet to elevate the rating of any film for smoking or implement a policy where smoking generates an R rating similar to certain language. The MPAA has received thousands of communications from youth, parents and the public in support of a change to its rating system, yet youth-rated movies continue to deliver billions of tobacco impressions.  For not taking action in the best interest of our nation’s youth, shame on you, MPAA.


Reality Check feels it’s time for Hollywood to stop glamorizing smoking in the movies kids see. Movies that contain smoking should have an “R” rating because smoking on screen kills in real life.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has so far been unwilling to change its rating system to trigger an R rating when smoking imagery is part of a film.  Six of the leading movie studios, Sony, Disney, Time Warner, Comcast, Paramount and Viacom have voluntarily adopted smoke free movies policies, but have often failed to abide by their own policies.   One major studio, News Corporation (Fox) has failed to adopt a policy at all.

Parents, teachers and community members are encouraged to send a message to the movie industry that celebrities enticing kids to smoke has got to stop. Send an e-mail to the MPAA at