Over the summer, Nora Galley saw something she liked - "No Smoking" signs along the pristine trails at Allegany State Park. Coming back to Buffalo, she found something she did not like - tobacco products seemingly targeted to minors.
Galley, 17, has an aunt who works at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, who introduced her to Reality Check, an organization that educates communities about manipulative and deceptive marketing practices of tobacco companies. Galley partnered with one of the aunt's co-workers to do tobacco audits of local shops.
"We went to convenience stores, especially one close to schools, to observe how expansive the walls of tobacco are and how many advertisements they had that were eye level with small children," Galley said. "A lot of things were right by toys and candies. Your eyes were drawn to those and then you saw the advertisements for tobacco. It's a big concern in my life because there are people who are in my life who have become sick due to use of tobacco, both smoking it and chewing it. I feel it's definitely something that my generation should work to stop completely."
Most stores place tobacco products behind the cash register counter, out of reach of customers, but right above the candy shelves. E-cigarettes come in sweet flavors like cherry, strawberry and bubble gum.
With this information, Galley will work with Reality Check to design a presentation to schools and clubs to increase awareness of how tobacco products are advertised.
The American Journal of Public Health has found that weekly or more frequent exposure to retail tobacco marketing was associated with a 50 percent increase in the odds of ever smoking. That is nearly the same effect as having parents who smoke.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence, and that nearly 9 out of 10 smokers first tried smoking by age 18.
Some of the stores audited sit in the South Buffalo neighborhood around her school - Mount Mercy Academy, Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School and an elementary school. So, the neighborhood has plenty of teens and young children who frequent those shops and see those displays. Galley would like to see the whole area become a no smoking zone.
"We were considering working with Mercy Hospital because their campus is smoke-free, but I feel there is a lot more that we could do around the area because there are so many schools. We have the hospital, Mercy, Bishop Timon and also Lorraine Elementary are all within walking distance," she said.
Galley finds it odd that pharmacies, designed to sell products to improve people's health, also sell cigarettes and chewing tobacco, which have been linked to cancer, emphysema and heart disease. In 2010, the American Pharmacists Association urged pharmacies to discontinue sales of tobacco products. In 2014, CVS banned the selling of tobacco and e-cigarettes in all their stores. Rite-Aid and Walgreens have placed nicotine patches and other cessation products next to their tobacco line.
Currently a junior at Mount Mercy and described by her school counselor as a "hard worker," Galley plans to continue this crusade into her college years. The issue hit close to home. One aunt had a heart attack followed by open-heart surgery after years of smoking. Her mother's cousin chewed tobacco and now has debilitating cancer. "He doesn't really go outside or eat or anything just because of chewing tobacco," Galley explained.