Giving Thanks in 2020

Written by Lauren Sears on November 24, 2020

The year 2020 will long be remembered as the year of the global pandemic that took an unprecedented toll on community members’ financial stability, health, and well-being. The loss of lives and livelihoods will surely be felt for many years to come. But even in the midst of what is arguably the biggest public health crisis of our lifetimes, we can pause and find reasons to be thankful because the year 2020has also delivered some significant public health gains in tobacco control, gains that will improve the health of all Capital District residents.

Top Ten Public Health Successes For Which We Are Thankful 

An end to the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol, in New York State.
Ending online delivery of e-cigarettes to private homes in New York State.
No more displays of tobacco products and tobacco product advertising near schools in New York State.
No sales of vape products within 1000 feet of schools in Bethlehem, and the establishment of a local licensing system to decrease the total number of stores that can sell tobacco.
All City of Rensselaer property is tobacco-and vape-free.
Town of Niskayuna parks are tobacco-and vape-free.
The Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley strengthened their capacity to address tobacco use among people

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New Siena College Research Institute Community Survey Finds Majority of Capital Region Residents Support Tobacco Control Policies

Written by Lauren Sears on October 28, 2020

A community survey conducted this spring and summer by Siena College Research Institute (SCRI) on behalf of Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities (CDTFC), reveals that most Capital Region residents in Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties support tobacco control policies. SCRI surveyed residents within the three counties about various tobacco-related topics ranging from policies prohibiting smoking in public areas like beaches and parks, to smoking in apartment buildings, as well as opinions on exposure to tobacco marketing in and out of stores, and near schools. These questions gauge community support of evidence-based policy solutions that lead to decreases in tobacco use.

Based on SCRI’s results, residents in all three counties were strongly in favor of policies that reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, including a ban on smoking on the grounds of municipal properties (71%), on the grounds of worksites (68%), and in parks and beaches (65%). There is also strong support for policies that ban the sale of tobacco products in stores that are located near schools (66%). Reducing young people’s exposure to tobacco marketing and decreasing the appeal of tobacco products has been shown to reduce youth smoking. To read the entire report, click here. Click here to read CDTFC’s press release. 

Seen Enough Tobacco Day 2020

Written by Lauren Sears on October 13, 2020

Today is #SeenEnoughTobaccoDay, which highlights the need for communities to protect children from the billions of dollars of tobacco marketing in places where kids can see it. The 13th was selected to underscore the alarming fact that the average age of a new smoker in New York is 13 years old.

While New York State’s recent ban on flavored e-cigarettes is a significant step toward reducing youth tobacco use, other flavored tobacco products, such as little cigars, chew and menthol cigarettes that are still on the market present an obstacle to decreasing tobacco use among young people and minority populations.

Menthol use among Black communities is a direct result of the tobacco industry’s marketing practices and product manipulation. Tobacco companies add menthol to make cigarettes seem less harsh and more appealing to new smokers and young people. Essentially, menthol in tobacco products, makes it easier to start and harder to quit.

Research indicates that:

Young people and African Americans are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than other groups.[1],[2]
More than half (54%) of youth who smoke use menthol cigarettes.[3]
Over 7 out of 10 African American youth ages 12-17 years who smoke use menthol cigarettes.[4]

Here in the Capital District, Reality Check members have provided a vital

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Columbia High School Student named 2020 Capital Region Youth Ambassador of the Year

Written by Lauren Sears on July 27, 2020

Praaghya Meyyan, a rising Columbia High School senior, is the Capital Region Youth Ambassador of the Year (YAYA). The award, sponsored by Reality Check of New York State, honors the outstanding work of young people who have taken the lead in holding tobacco companies accountable for marketing to youth. These young activists are fighting to protect their peers and communities from the dangers of tobacco use through public education efforts, peer-to-peer training and outreach to policymakers.

Praaghya has been an active member of Reality Check since 2018 and has provided a vital youth perspective on the impact of tobacco marketing on young people on issues ranging from the mixed message of selling tobacco in pharmacies, the importance of raising the age to 21 for sale of tobacco products, and the youth appeal of flavored tobacco products. Her education efforts contributed to local and state adoption of Tobacco-Free Pharmacies, Tobacco 21, and a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

She was honored by New York Assemblyman Jake Ashby and Rensselaer County Legislator Tom Grant for her tobacco control work during a virtual ceremony on July 24, 2020. To learn more about Praaghya’s involvment in Reality Check, click here.

Town of Niskayuna Public Hearing on including e-cigs in tobacco-free parks policy on July 28

Written by Lauren Sears on July 22, 2020

The Town of Niskayuna is inviting public comment on expanding the provisions of a local law that prohibits the use of tobacco products in town parks to also prohibit e-cigarette use. The public hearing is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 as part of the regularly scheduled Town Board meeting.

The town of Niskayuna was the first Capital District municipality to make its parks tobacco-free in 2008. The proposed amendment would enhance the protections provided to park visitors by also preventing harmful exposure to e-cigarette emissions which may continue particulate matter and be inhaled into the lungs. You can read the draft amendment here.

There are several ways you can participate in this public hearing and share your views:

By video conference, copy this link into your web browser: :

By telephone, dial +1 754 -610-3088 and enter the following PIN: 346388428
If you are unable to participate electronically or by telephone but would like to submit a comment to be read during the public hearing, you can email your comment to by 5:00 p.m. on July 28, 2020

This information is also available on the Town of Niskayuna website.





CDTFC on Town of Bethlehem Passing New Tobacco Retailer Licensing Law

Written by Lauren Sears on June 24, 2020

Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities and Town of Bethlehem residents applaud the Bethlehem Town Board for passing today new measures to protect its residents, especially children and young people, from the impact of tobacco marketing. The new law will require a local license for retailers to sell tobacco and vape products and will gradually decrease the number of licenses available. In addition, tobacco retailers located within 1000 feet of schools will no longer be allowed to sell vape products.

The law comes after the Town undertook an extensive review of policy options after a vape shop applied to locate directly in front of Elsmere Elementary School in 2019. The Town solicited written comments on the proposed law and held public hearings virtually on May 27 and June 10.  About a dozen residents submitted comments and all expressed support for the proposal, many citing the desire to address the youth vaping epidemic and to create a healthier environment for their children.

For more information, click here.




Black Lives Matter

Written by Lauren Sears on June 8, 2020

The effects of racism, high prevalence of health disparities, and systemic oppression that have deeply affected black communities and other communities of color are issues of great concern to CDTFC. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have intensified scrutiny not only of law enforcement, but of all institutional racism as reflected in disparities related to wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, political power, education and health care.

Racism has no place in a just society. Everyone deserves the right to live and thrive in environments that are safe, stable and healthy. We stand committed to support reforms that address institutionalized racism and advance our organization’s mission to eliminate health disparities. #EndDisparities #HealthEquity

World No Tobacco Day #TobaccoExposed

Written by Lauren Sears on May 28, 2020

For decades, the tobacco industry has deliberately employed strategic, aggressive and well-funded tactics to attract youth to tobacco and nicotine products. Internal industry documents reveal in-depth research and calculated approaches designed to attract a new generation of tobacco users to replace the millions of people who die each year from tobacco-attributable diseases with new consumers. In New York State, this “new generation” includes 10,600 new smokers under the age of 18 every year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) brings attention to the ways in which the tobacco industry grows its user base across the globe. This video is a compelling look at what communities are up against as we work to promote tobacco-free living. The more you know about Big Tobacco’s dirty tricks, the more you know about how to stop them in their tracks.

Tobacco Control Measures in State Budget

Written by Lauren Sears on April 3, 2020

New York State lawmakers have passed the 2020-21 state budget. In this budget are several tobacco control measures that will go into effect this summer, making our communities a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.

As of May 18, the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes (except tobacco flavor) will be prohibited unless and until a particular product receives market authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Also, tobacco sales in all pharmacies and stores that contain a pharmacy will end.

As of July 1, several other tobacco control measures will go into effect:

Prohibits price discounts and coupons for tobacco products
Ends online sales of vapor products delivered to private residences
Ends tobacco ads and product displays near schools
Increases penalties for tobacco retailers selling to underage purchasers.

New York is the second state in the nation to prohibit pharmacies from selling tobacco products (Massachusetts) and is also the second state in the nation to prohibit coupons and other price promotions for tobacco and e-cigarette products (New Jersey).

Working Remotely

Written by Lauren Sears on March 24, 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities are following public health guidance and are working remotely for the foreseeable future. If you need to contact CDTFC, please either email us by using the contact form here  or through our Facebook and Twitter handles.  Stay healthy and well.