Wednesday, October 18, 2017


New York Youth Demonstrate At Altria’s Shareholder Meeting
Message to Shareholders: We’ve Seen Enough Marketing

RICHMOND, VA – May 19, 2016 – As the Altria Group shareholders made their way to the company’s annual meeting on Thursday, approximately 40 youth advocates from Reality Check New York were at the Marshall Street entrance of the Richmond Convention Center, welcoming them in a very special way – dressed in skull caps and skeleton costumes.

No, it was not an early Halloween celebration. It was a demonstration designed to tell Altria and Phillip Morris USA (PMUSA) that they’ve seen enough tobacco marketing and they want the company to do something about it. Throughout the demonstration, members of the group roamed the streets near the Convention Center, trying to educate the crowd of the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco marketing.

“Phillip Morris USA claims it doesn’t market to kids and doesn’t want them to start smoking,” said Sarah Robbins, coordinator of the Reality Check program of the
Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness Coalition. “If that’s the case, then why are they spending $9.6 billion per year to market their products where kids are likely to see it?”

Studies show that kids who shop in stores with tobacco marketing, such as gas stations and convenience stores, are 64 percent more likely to start smoking than their friends who don’t.

“Despite what they say, Phillip Morris USA spends billions marketing their deadly products right in front of us,” said Amber Updike, a middle school student from Watkins Glen, NY. “Enough is enough, already!”

Amber Updike attended the meeting as a proxy for a shareholder. During the meeting, Amber had the opportunity to ask the CEO of Altria the following question, “If Philip Morris USA doesn’t target youth and doesn’t want youth to start smoking as they state, then why do they spend $9 billion every year marketing their products in places that youth can easily see them?”
This Altria shareholders demonstration was a joint effort between Reality Check NY and Counter Tools of Chapel Hill, NC, a non-profit organization that provides advocacy training to public health workers who are working on point of sale tobacco control. In preparation for demonstrating on Thursday, the Reality Check youth spent all day Wednesday learning about tobacco control policies, how the tobacco industry contracts with retailers and how they can stand up, speak out and make a difference in the fight against big tobacco.

Reality Check is a teen-led, adult-run program that seeks to prevent and decrease tobacco use among young people throughout New York State.

For more information about Reality Check, visit


The New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control funds the Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness Coalition to increase support for New York State’s tobacco-free norm through youth action and community engagement. Efforts are evidence-based, policy-driven, and cost-effective approaches that decrease youth tobacco use, motivate adult smokers to quit, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. The Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness Coalition is a part of the Chemung County Health Department. Visit for more information.

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