Dear Editor:

My name is Adama, and I live in West Harlem. As a teenager I am aware of a lot of things, and what I notice most is how many of my peers and other younger children are exposed to the huge quantity of tobacco retail outlets in our communities. Most people know that tobacco is bad for us, but do we really know the extent of how tobacco affects us?

I live in a neighborhood where smoking is kind of an everyday norm for people—even teens like me. But is it really their fault? Tobacco proliferation and density, a large number or spread of tobacco retail outlets in an area, is one of the major reasons why tobacco still influences young people. Tobacco outlets can be found on nearly every corner and every block, normalizing access and use of these dangerous products. Children, such as my two younger brothers, are constantly being bombarded with tobacco marketing, serving only to influence them to become “replacements” for the thousands of smokers who die each year.

This summer I am a fellow at NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, which works to protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy and education. During my fellowship, I had the chance to map out tobacco outlets in my own neighborhood, and the results were shocking. I found that there are at least 20 tobacco outlets within a two-block radius from my home! Even more concerning is this proliferation is not just in my neighborhood, but in many others across New York City as well.

It has got to stop. Our kids, brothers and sisters deserve better than to live with deadly and addictive tobacco products on almost every neighborhood block. The next generation should live tobacco-free. We can help end the tobacco epidemic by ending tobacco proliferation in our neighborhoods. Join us and be part of the change. For more information visit us at


Adama Fall, age 18