To the Readers' Forum:
Recently, the village of Haverstraw passed the first local law in the country eliminating tobacco product displays in stores. Bravo to the forward thinking citizens of Rockland County for helping protect our kids from the millions of dollars Big Tobacco spends targeting non-smokers as new addicts, er, I mean smokers.
Considering our Surgeon General just affirmed that 90 percent of smokers start before their 19th birthday and 99 percent start before they're 26, it's safe to conclude that Big Tobacco's target is indeed our kids.
Product packaging, well-lit colorful shelving and signage, and prime visual retail space right behind the cash registers capitalize on young eyes' impressionable attention.
Our local Reality Check groups have been presenting to local villages and towns to help elected officials understand what's going on, and the only question they've gotten after six presentations so far is "Do you think smoking is cool?"
Really? That answer should have been obvious: of course it's not cool to die a slow, painful, expensive death with rotten breath and leathery skin; of course it's not cool to not be able to toss a football around with your kid because you can't breathe; of course it's not cool to not be able to go on vacations with your kids because you just can't afford it after your $10 a pack a day addiction.
Kudos to these kids for speaking up for themselves. Let's hope our community leaders listen this time around and ask important questions like "What can we do to help protect our kids here in southwestern New York?"
Senior Program Coordinator
Chautauqua, Cattaraugus & Allegany Counties Reality Check
Allegany Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Inc.