SWAT STUDENTS ADVOCATE FOR TOBACCO FREE 4TH OF JULY CELEBRATION
Jay, Fla. - SWAT students, representing the Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County, are wasting no time making this an active year in tobacco free advocacy. Newly appointed county SWAT officers, Jake Benton and Avri Anderson, both from Milton High School, joined County SWAT Coordinator, Matthew Dobson, and met with the Jay City Council on Monday, June 18th in Jay.
“We requested to be added to the town’s meeting agenda and they obliged,” said Dobson.
The students made a short presentation about the harmful and ill-effects of tobacco use and asked if the town council would designate the Jay Celebrate Freedom 5K event on July 4th as a tobacco free event. After some open discussion the town council unanimously decided to proclaim all planned events in the park on July 4th as tobacco free.
“It was a win for the tobacco free Florida initiative and we are very pleased,” said Dobson.
County SWAT student chairperson, Jake Benton said, “SWAT stands for Students Working Against Tobacco. We are a united movement of Florida empowered youth working toward a tobacco free future.”
In November 2006, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment, Article X, Section 27, that called for establishing a comprehensive tobacco education and use prevention program using a percentage of the state’s tobacco settlement fund. As a result, Tobacco Free Florida (TFF) launched in 2007. TFF is administered through the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida and funded by money derived from the state’s tobacco settlement agreement with the major tobacco companies in 1997. These tobacco lawsuits were intended to punish cigarette makers for decades of fraud and racketeering and to help states pay for the Medicaid and other public health expenses to cover sick smokers. Florida was among three other states – Texas, Mississippi and Minnesota – that settled with the tobacco industry before the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 between the other 46 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease and if current smoking rates continue, 270,000 Florida children alive today who are younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely because of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that changing behaviors related to tobacco is critical in Florida, where each year about 32,300 adults die from smoking. The CDC also adds that smoking costs the state $8.6 billion in medical costs annually.
A mandate of the constitutional amendment is that the TFF program follows the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs. This guide helps states plan and establish evidence-based comprehensive, sustained, and accountable tobacco control programs to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Following these principles, TFF reaches millions of Floridians through hard-hitting media campaigns, public relations, social media, evidence-based tobacco cessation services, grassroots initiatives, county-level grants that advance tobacco-free policies, a youth-led movement called Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), school-based interventions, and surveillance and evaluation to ensure effectiveness.