News and Events

Levy County's “Through with Chew Week" Letter Writing Campaign!
February 20, 2017

Through With Chew Week (TWCW) is an annual national tobacco control observance intended to increase awareness about smokeless tobacco use. Traditionally, TWCW serves as an educational campaign to decrease smokeless tobacco use and increase awareness of the negative health effects of using any types of these products.

In Levy County, high school and middle school smokeless tobacco usage rates are nearly four times higher than the state averages. Per the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey in 2016, 14.1% of high school students and 5.7% of middle school students in Levy County reported using smokeless tobacco. The rate for Florida high schoolers was 3.7% and the Florida middle school rate was 1.4%.

“One potential reason the youth rates in Levy County are higher is because the tobacco industry tends to concentrate advertising for smokeless tobacco products in rural areas,” said Levy County Community Health Advocate Kristina Zachry. “Additionally, there are currently no federal regulations or laws that restrict the manufacture of flavored smokeless tobacco products, which are attractive to youth.”

To recognize Through With Chew Week this year, a small group of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and Tobacco Free Partnership members in Levy County decided that they wanted to start a letter writing campaign to educate local, state, and national decision makers about the prevalence of youth smokeless tobacco use, the impact of the tobacco industry on youth usage, and the importance of programs that help create awareness through prevention work. Read More

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The QuitDoc Foundation and Tobacco Free Florida are raising awareness during “Through with Chew Week”
February 10, 2017

Chiefland, Fla. – The QuitDoc Foundation and the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida program are raising awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco – like chew and dip – during Through With Chew Week. This national public awareness campaign was created to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco among young people, and Tobacco Free Florida aims to help combat this deadly addiction. Through With Chew Week takes place Feb. 19-25, with the Great American Spit Out – a day when smokeless tobacco users join together to quit – on Feb. 23.

Although the youth cigarette smoking rate in Florida decreased over 50 percent between 2012 and 2016, the number of Florida high school students who reported current use of smokeless tobacco products decreased only 24.5 percent in those same four years. The disproportionately higher rate of smokeless tobacco use in rural areas is also alarming – current youth smokeless tobacco use is more than three times higher in rural communities than in non-rural areas. In 2016, 8.1 percent of youth ages 11-17 in Levy County reported current use of smokeless tobacco products, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey.

“While we’re proud that youth smoking is at an all-time low, the number of young Floridians using smokeless tobacco is decreasing at a dramatically slower rate,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. "We need to do more to educate about the risks and deter our young people of using these products.”

 

To raise awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use, the Tobacco Free Partnership and Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members are participating in various advocacy activities at local schools throughout the week.
Read More

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The Issue of Smokeless Tobacco
January 17, 2017

Smokeless tobacco is not burned, contains nicotine and is addictive. Smokeless tobacco is typically called spit tobacco, chewing tobacco, chew, dip, plug, and probably a few other things. Types of smokeless tobacco include:

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Tobacco Free Florida and Tobacco free Partnership of Levy County Encourage Tobacco Users to Quit on the Great American Smokeout on November 17.
November 10, 2016

WHO/WHAT:  In observance of the Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, Tobacco Free Florida and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County encourage tobacco users to use the day to make a quit plan or to plan in advance to quit smoking on that day – November 17, 2016.

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County will host a free educational event on Tuesday to raise awareness about Tobacco Free Florida’s free and proven-effective resources available to Floridians to successfully quit. The “Quit Your Way” program provides users interested in quitting access to free tools, including a 2-Week Starter Kit of nicotine replacement patches, Text2Quit, Email Tips and a Quit Guide. They can choose as many as they need or use them in addition to Tobacco Free Florida’s Phone, Group, and Web Quit services. Read More

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Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Represented at Regional Meeting
November 5, 2016

At least once a year, Florida’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program hosts regional meetings where youth come together to learn new skills and elect their representatives for the statewide Youth Advocacy Board. This year’s meeting for Region 2 took place on Saturday, November 5th, 2016. Approximately 44 SWAT members representing 22 counties attended to represent Region 2 in Palatka, including two Levy SWAT members. Chiefland High School Seniors, Elena Richardson and Kelli Nerau, attended the Region 2 meeting to learn new skills to share with their school SWAT team and other Levy SWAT members.

The regional meetings were planned during the summer by the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) and some extra work group members, along with some select adults in each region, including the Levy County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Kristina Zachry. Mrs. Zachry worked closely with Levy SWAT member Dakota Phillips, who helped plan the details for the meeting until she unexpectedly had to relocate out of town with her family early in the school year.


Levy SWAT Members Elena Richardson (Left) and Kelli Nerau (Right)
with Tobacco Prevention Specialist Kristina Zachry (Center) at the Region 2 SWAT Meeting

“Dakota put in a lot of time and creativity with her peers to plan this meeting,” said Mrs. Zachry. “It’s disappointing that she had to move and was not able to attend the meeting and see the result of her hard work and planning, but the show must go on.”

 

The theme for the region 2 SWAT meeting was “Leave Your Mark.” Florida SWAT has a legacy of achieving great success when it comes to battling the tobacco industry. There are many ways that members of Students Working Against Tobacco members in Region 2 and across the state plan to contribute their creativity to the fight against the tobacco industry and leave their mark on tobacco prevention and control.

The agenda for the regional meeting focused on team building activities as well as a fun activity that helped build facilitation skills for leading SWAT meetings. The SWAT members in attendance also learned about new advocacy tools and how they can contribute to a statewide campaign to raise the age of purchase for tobacco to 21 years old in Florida. Read More

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Cedar Key Seafood Festival Celebrates Tobacco Free
October 15, 2016

The Cedar Key Seafood Festival is an annual event in Levy County that brings over 200 arts and crafts exhibits to the island, together with multiple seafood booths in the city park, as well as booths from local organizations, live music, a parade, and beautiful weather. This year was no exception, despite Hurricane Matthew devastating Cedar Key only weeks before. Residents pulled together and maintained the Seafood Festival tradition with a renewed vigor and expression of love for their community during the weekend festivities.

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County set up a community booth in the city park, which is where the hub of activity is for the festival. Lining the park are seafood vendors, selling delicious fried seafood from the area, as well as delicious desserts, smoothies, and steamed corn-on-the-cob. Visitors gather their tasty seafood dishes and sit on the lawn or at picnic tables, where they enjoy the sounds of live music and children playing on the adjacent playground while they watch the waves crash on the small beach.

The Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT have participated in this event for many years, and this is the second year that the festival has been designated as tobacco free, with two designated tobacco use areas for the artists and visitors that are away from the crowds. Several families that attended the festival expressed that they are happy that it is so family-friendly, and many of the adults that stopped at the tobacco prevention booth were supportive of the tobacco free festival policy. Many people that stopped by the booth were interested in seeking resources for loved ones to encourage them to quit.

 

This year’s Seafood Festival Parade was longer than ever, and featured several local school and civic groups with creative floats and enthusiastic participants. New to the parade for the first time this year was a Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) float. The Cedar Key School SWAT members decorated their flatbed float with green ribbons and balloons and rode on the flatbed trailer, where they chanted and waved to the crowds while they threw out candy to the children lining the streets. Read More

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Florida’s Tobacco Prevention Youth Advocacy Board Has a Penchant for Planning
August 26, 2016

The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) was established in 2008 to help guide the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida’s youth tobacco prevention program. The members are responsible for informing the Bureau about the most effective methods to reach their peers with tobacco prevention messaging and what the content of those messages should be.

These students are a dedicated group of youth who are united in fighting Big Tobacco and succeeding together. They volunteer countless hours to engage their peers and build their organization and the work they do is commendable. The YAB hosts monthly conference calls and annual regional meetings for their peers around Florida where they share new information, provide skill building opportunities, brainstorm new social networking themes, and generate ideas for SWAT member recruitment, engagement, and retention.


Dakota Phillips (L), and Levy County TPS Kristina Zachry (R)

The Youth Advocacy Board consists of four SWAT members from each of four regions in Florida, for a total of sixteen statewide leaders. At annual regional meetings, county SWAT members are elected by their peers to serve as representatives on this statewide board. Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) representative Dakota Phillips is a Junior at Williston High School and a recently appointed member of the YAB for Region 2. Read More

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School is Back in Session for the Levy Tobacco Prevention Program
August 13, 2016

July and August were busy months for the Levy County Tobacco Prevention Program as the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) and the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program geared up for the Fall. This summer was unusually short as the students in Levy started school earlier this year than they have in the past. Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT members attended several back to school events at the end of the summer to promote membership and support returning students with tobacco prevention information and resources for parents who want to quit using tobacco. One of the most notable events that the Tobacco Prevention Program attended this summer was the Chiefland First United Methodist Church’s Annual End of Summer Back to School Bash.

The purpose of the Back to School Bash is to give away free backpacks and school supplies to the many children and families in Levy County who are unable to provide these items on their own for school. Various community organizations and agencies participate in this event every year to serve nearly 800 youth.

The Tobacco Free Partnership set up a booth at the event and shared information and resources with the families in attendance. There were many adults who engaged in conversations about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure, smokeless tobacco, and the importance of quitting tobacco use. Additionally, this event was an opportunity to promote the Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program and recruit new members. Read More

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Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Celebrates Ten Years of Advocacy
May 18, 2016

Members of the Levy County chapter of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) attended the 10th annual Levy SWAT Advocacy Summit on May 18th at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, FL. There were a total of 95 youth in attendance at the event for an entire day of learning and teambuilding. This summit marks ten years of SWAT advocacy in Levy County and the SWAT chapter has accomplished numerous policy changes and developed many public speakers and advocates during this time, consistently maintaining an annual county chapter membership of 150-200 members.

The Levy County SWAT Representative and recent addition to the Statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board, Dakota Phillips, helped plan and facilitate the summit this year along with the Community Health Advocate for Levy County, Kristina Zachry. Dakota welcomed her peers to the summit and helped facilitate the presentations and agenda items, setting a great example of leadership!

The agenda for the day included presentations from each of the five school SWAT teams that were in attendance. SWAT members shared examples of activities that they conducted at their respective schools during the year to promote SWAT and to spread the tobacco prevention message about industry manipulation and targeting of teens. Read More

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Levy County Commission Passes Tobacco Free Florida Week Proclamation
May 3, 2016

On May 3, 2016, two leaders from Levy County’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program and a Tobacco Free Partnership member educated the Levy Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure and asked the Commissioners to pass a proclamation to declare May 8th-14th as Tobacco Free Florida Week.

Williston High School SWAT member and Levy County SWAT Representative, Dakota Phillips, partnered up with Chiefland SWAT member Kelli Nerau to deliver an impactful presentation to the commissioners that highlighted the fact that secondhand smoke significantly increases the risk of lung cancer, which is Florida’s number one cancer killer.

Additionally, the students shared the fact that 39.7 percent of Florida high school students and 35.9 percent of Florida middle school students reported being exposed to secondhand smoke in a room or car within the past week. Read More

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QuitDoc Foundation Exposes the Risks of Secondhand Smoke
Eighth Annual Tobacco Free Florida Week Aims to Break the Myth that Secondhand Smoke is Harmless
April 28, 2016

Bronson, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida program and the QuitDoc Foundation are launching a new initiative, Secondhand Smoke Exposed, as part of the eighth annual Tobacco Free Florida Week, taking place May 8-14, to educate Levy County residents about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

This year’s theme, Secondhand Smoke Exposed, focuses on dispelling the common myth that secondhand smoke is harmless. The fact is that breathing even small amounts of secondhand smoke can be dangerous. To create more awareness about Tobacco Free Florida week, members of Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) are asking the Levy County Board of County Commissioners to pass a proclamation at their May 3rd meeting, declaring May 8th-14th as Tobacco Free Florida Week. Read More

 

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Levy County Youth Work Toward a Tobacco Free Future
March 18, 2016

BRONSON, Fla. – Levy County’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) spoke up and took action against the tobacco industry for the 21st annual Kick Butts Day on March 16th. This national day of activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, empowers youth to fight back against Big Tobacco.

SWAT members across Levy planned and participated in activities to raise awareness about the tobacco industry among their peers. Most notable, Cedar Key School SWAT members created eye-catching posters declaring why they are not “replacements” for the people who die due to tobacco use every day, despite being labeled as such by the tobacco industry. SWAT displayed these posters around the school campus and collected one hundred teen signatures on tobacco free pledge cards. Read More

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Tobacco Industry Advertising is Prevalent in Levy County
March 14, 2016

Members of the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Levy County and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) recently learned more about tobacco industry marketing and advertising in retail stores and how it relates to youth tobacco use.

The research is very unnerving. Studies suggest that the stores that teens shop in the most have more than three times the amount of cigarette advertisements and promotional materials outside of the stores and almost three times more materials inside, compared to other stores in the community. Since two out of three kids will visit a convenience store at least once a week, the advertising opportunity is perfect for the tobacco industry to take advantage of for their goal of reaching young new customers.

Studies also suggest that when there are a higher number of tobacco retailers near schools, those schools tend to have higher smoking rates. This makes sense, since students often walk to nearby stores and stop in on their way to or from school for snacks and drinks. Also, the density of tobacco retailers is greater in low-income and minority neighborhoods, and those populations tend to be disproportionately addicted to tobacco.

Two partnership members and two SWAT members decided to team up and conduct a county-wide assessment of the retail stores in Levy County to see if their local stores show the same marketing and advertising strategies and patterns that these studies suggest. Read More

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Smokeless Tobacco Use Remains High in Levy County
QuitDoc Foundation and Tobacco Free Florida are raising awareness during “Through with Chew Week”
February 3, 2016

BRONSON, Fla. – QuitDoc Foundation and the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida are raising awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco, like chew and dip, during “Through With Chew Week.” This public awareness campaign was created to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco among young people and help combat this deadly addiction. “Through With Chew Week” takes place Feb. 14-20.

To raise awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) clubs in schools across Levy County are hosting awareness activities during the week. In addition to activities at school that raise awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco, the students plan to have a pledge card drive, where they will encourage their peers to sign tobacco free pledges.

Although youth cigarette smoking rates in Florida are at an all-time low, 10.6 percent of high school students in Levy County reported current use of smokeless tobacco products in 2014, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. This is twice the state average of 5.4 percent.

“Smokeless tobacco products contain harmful chemicals that are known to cause cancer,” said Shannon Hughes, Director of the Florida Department of Health’s Community Health Promotion. "Youth who use smokeless products are more likely to experiment with other types of tobacco. Studies have shown that adolescent boys who use smokeless tobacco have a higher risk of becoming cigarette smokers.” Read More

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United States Congress Passes Child Nicotine Poisoning Protection Act; The Bill Now Goes to President Obama for His Signature
January 11, 2016

On January 11, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation requiring that liquid nicotine be sold in child-resistant packaging, consistent with Consumer Product Safety Commission standards.The Senate previously approved the legislation (the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act), which is designed to protect children from poisoning from highly concentrated vials of liquid nicotine.  The bill now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature.

"In recent years, the marketing of unregulated flavored nicotine products has led to a surge in accidental ingestion by children," said Dr. Barry Hummel, a Pediatrician and Co-Founder of the Quit Doc Foundation. "The new law will hold candy-flavored nicotine, including bubble gum and gummy bear flavored products, to the same standards as other over-the-counter drugs by requiring child-resistant packaging."

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, one teaspoon of liquid nicotine could be lethal to a small child, and smaller amounts can cause severe illness.
"In 2011, there were 271 cases of accidental nicotine ingestion reported to poison control centers," added Dr. Hummel. "That number jumped to 3,783 by 2014, a 14-fold increase. More than half of these cases involved children under the age of 6, the group most vulnerable to severe illness and death." Read More

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Tobacco Free Partnership and College of Central Florida Host 3rd Annual Great American Smokeout Health Fair
November 19, 2015

To celebrate the 2015 American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County and the College of Central Florida (CF) Levy Campus partnered together to host a health fair at the college. The health fair vendors focused their messages on encouraging staff, students, and the community to quit using tobacco and choose healthy behaviors by using free and available community resources.

GASO Table

This is the third year that this health fair has taken place and a total of 12 community vendors attended and shared information with the staff and students of CF and community members. Approximately 50 people attended the health fair, which was advertised around the community, in the newspapers, and through word of mouth.

Levy County Community Health Advocate, Kristina Zachry, helped organize the vendors for the event, which included tobacco prevention and cessation information from the Tobacco Free Partnership, blood pressure readings, exercise, and healthy weight information from the Florida Department of Health, yoga demonstrations, information about nutrition from the University of Florida IFAS Extension, and other important health-related organizations including Palms Medical Center, Another Way, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Haven Hospice, Levy County Emergency Management, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Levy County Prevention Coalition, among others. Read More

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Levy Students Working Against Tobacco Members Serve as Regional Ambassadors
November 15, 2015

The Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida has designated four regions across the state for Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) County Chapters and each of these regions works together to achieve Florida’s statewide tobacco prevention goals. Each region has SWAT members who are elected by their peers to serve on a statewide Youth Advocacy Board (YAB). This fifteen member YAB advises the statewide tobacco prevention program and provides input on prevention initiatives.

SWAT Retreat

In November, Region 1 SWAT in northwest Florida hosted a weekend youth retreat in Panama City Beach. There were approximately 180 youth and more than 30 adults in attendance, representing each of the 18 counties in the region. The Region 1 YAB members who helped organize the event extended an invitation to YAB members in the other Florida SWAT regions to attend and serve as Regional Ambassadors for the weekend. Two YAB members and a member of the Region 2 Leadership Committee attended from Region 2, with two of those students representing Levy County and one representing Nassau County. Two YAB members from Region 4 were also in attendance.

In addition to providing support to their YAB team members in Region 1, the Regional Ambassadors who attended the weekend retreat were there to gather ideas and inspiration that they can use to plan similar events in their respective regions next spring. The three girls that attended from Region 2 spent the weekend taking notes and brainstorming agenda ideas for the Region 2 Retreat scheduled for March 11-13, 2015. Read More

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Levy SWAT Members Show Leadership at Regional Meeting
September 26, 2015

Florida’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program held its annual regional meeting on Saturday, September 25th, 2015. Every year, regional SWAT meetings take place in each of four regions across Florida on the same day, but in different locations. Approximately 42 SWAT members attended to represent Region 2 in Orange Park, as well as four Levy SWAT members.

Bronson High School Junior and SWAT Club Co-Chair, Jordan Marlett, not only attended the Region 2 meeting, but she also facilitated a session for advanced SWAT members and was elected for a statewide leadership position. Jamey Mullin, a SWAT Sophomore from Bronson High School also attended and facilitated a session for newer SWAT members. Dakota Phillips and Kelli Nerau attended the meeting to represent Levy County as participants. Dakota is a 10th grader and SWAT Co-Chair at Cedar Key School and Kelli is an 11th grade SWAT member at Chiefland High School.


Levy County SWAT members (L to R): Jordan Marlett, Jamey Mullin, Dakota Phillips, and Kelli Nerau

The regional meetings were planned during the summer by the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) and some extra work group members, along with some select adults in each region. Jordan has served on the YAB for the past year, and Jamey joined the planning process as a special work group member. Read More

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Teen Smoking Rates at All-Time Low
E-Cigarette Use On the Rise, Cause for Concern
September 23, 2015

TALLAHASSEE – Youth cigarette smoking rates in Florida are at an all-time low according to new data released on Tuesday by the Florida Department of Health. Conventional cigarette use among Florida high school students dropped from 8.6 percent in 2013* to 6.9 percent in 2015 – a 19.7 percent change. The Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) also showed declines in other combustible and traditional smokeless products.

“Floridians should be proud of the historic progress made in the state to reduce the number of young cigarette smokers,” said Community Health Promotion Division Director Shannon Hughes. “Since voters approved the constitutional amendment to create Tobacco Free Florida, high school cigarette smoking has gone down an impressive 52.4 percent.”

This new report also marks another important, but more troubling trend. Current e-cigarette use among high school students has increased – from 5.4 percent in 2013 to 15.8 percent in 2015. Hookah use among high school students has also increased, from 8.2 percent in 2013 to 9.7 percent in 2015. Since 2009, when FYTS began tracking current hookah use, the rate has increased 26 percent. Read More

FYTS 2015 Trend Data

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Cedar Key SWAT Addresses Tobacco Litter Problem
September 19, 2015

Cedar Key is a small city in Levy County that is making a big difference. The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members from Cedar Key School have been participating in the International Coastal Cleanup for several years now and have collected over 9,300 cigarette butts to date. This September, eleven SWAT members participated in the cleanup event and spent a Saturday combing Dock Street, the Marina, and 2nd Street for cigarette butts and other tobacco litter.

Due to carefully documenting their collection efforts, the students noticed that they were still finding a large amount of tobacco litter in certain areas of the small coastal fishing community that are frequented by visitors. SWAT decided to create a plan to help lower the amount of tobacco butts found on the ground.

 
Tobaccco Collection
Levy Cleanup (L to R):
Trinity Boyle, Brandon Bowling, Dakota Phillips

Cedar Key SWAT leader, Dakota Phillips, explains, “The prediction was that if we put small garden buckets on the trash cans around Main Street, people might use them as ash trays instead of throwing them on the ground.” Read More

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Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County Appoints 2015-2016 Advisory Council
August 11, 2015

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County has appointed its 2015-2016 Advisory Council. Advisory Council members assume leadership roles in the community relating to tobacco control advocacy, education, prevention, and policy change in Levy County.

This year’s advisory council members include a new partnership chair, Cynthia Austin. Cindy is a teacher with the School Board of Levy County and Bronson Middle High School’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) advisor. The youth co-chair is Jordan Marlett, an 11th grade SWAT member and the Levy County SWAT Representative. Jordan also served on the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board for 2014-2015 and is hoping to continue her work on the board for 2015-2016. The vice-chair of the partnership is Mary Phillips, the Chiefland Middle High School SWAT Advisor. Finally, the partnership secretary is Jamey Mullin, a SWAT member from Bronson Middle High School.

Tobacco Free Partnership Advisory Board
The 2015-2016 TFP Advisory Board (from L to R): Cindy Austin, Jamey Mullin, Jordan Marlett

The advisory council members are looking forward to fulfilling their roles with the partnership and the chair, Cindy Austin, is especially thrilled. “I’m excited to represent the Tobacco Free Partnership this year as chair,” says Cindy. She adds, “I’m looking forward to achieving our goals together with our youth members.” Read More

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Warning Labels and Child-Resistant Packaging on Liquid Nicotine Bottles
A Letter from Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong
July 22, 2015

There have been a number of media stories recently concerning the regulation of packaging for liquid nicotine intended for use in electronic cigarettes. The rapid increase of e-cigarette use by teens and the number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine is an alarming public health concern. The state of Florida urges immediate guidance from federal regulators and calls for increased vigilance from parents, businesses and e-cigarette users to keep these items away from children.

Liquid Nicotine Poisonings

Child-resistant packaging on bottles and cartridges of liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices are necessary to protect infants and children. If swallowed or absorbed through the skin, liquid nicotine can lead to serious illness or even death. In fact, the number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, according to a study published last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than half of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children under age 5. The number of calls per month involving conventional cigarettes did not show a similar increase during the same time period... Read More

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SWAT Celebrates 9th Annual Advocacy Summit
May 22, 2015

Members of the Levy County chapter of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) attended the 9th annual Levy SWAT Advocacy Summit on May 22nd at Camp Anderson in Old Town, FL. There were a total of 106 youth in attendance at the event for an entire day of learning and teambuilding. Putnam County was also represented, including two of Florida’s Region 2 Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) members.

Statewide SWAT YAB members Kayla Spengemann and Abriyah Campbell from Putnam County, along with the third Region 2 YAB member, Jordan Marlett from Levy County, helped facilitate the summit this year along with the Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Kristina Zachry.

YAB member Kayla Spengemann enjoyed spending her day in Levy County. “The summit was so inspiring, and I loved giving a speech to the kids,” said Kayla. “It was very interactive between everyone and I would do it over and over again anytime.”

The agenda included presentations from each of the five school SWAT teams that were in attendance. They shared examples of activities that they conducted at their respective schools during the year to promote SWAT and to spread the tobacco prevention message about industry manipulation and targeting of teens. The YAB members gave an update on the activities they’ve been involved with statewide. The SWAT leaders and school advisors were also recognized with certificates of achievement and small tokens of appreciation for their efforts.

Facilitators

“I was very excited to recognize some of our outstanding SWAT leaders this year at the summit,” said Ms. Zachry. “We also wanted to incorporate some fun and active teambuilding activities to keep everyone’s attention and help us work better together. We asked our Statewide Region 2 YAB members to help facilitate the summit, and they were eager to show their leadership and help out.” Read More

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Chiefland Passes Flavored Tobacco Resolution
May 11, 2015

On May 11, 2015, the City of Chiefland unanimously passed a resolution concerning the sale of flavored tobacco products, joining the Board of County Commissioners and the list of municipalities in Levy County that have passed similar resolutions to date. The City of Chiefland also completes the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program’s flavored tobacco resolution initiative for Levy County.  

SWAT members from Chiefland Middle High School, 10th grader Elena Richardson and 7th grader Emma Ronchetti, presented to the Chiefland City Commissioners and educated them about the dangers of flavored tobacco products. The students talked to the City Commissioners about the fact that the tobacco industry deliberately packages and flavors these products like candy to attract the eye of vulnerable youth. The students passed around a bowl full of actual flavored tobacco products and encouraged the commissioners to open the packages and smell the sweet flavors.
SWAT Youth

The SWAT members also educated the commissioners about the facts that many of Levy County’s tobacco retailers are near schools and flavored cigars are often used by youth for drugs. When asked about her experience, Elena said “I was nervous at first about speaking in front of the Chiefland Commissioners, but afterwards it felt really great.” She added, “For them to quickly pass the resolution right after our presentation really showed how much they support the SWAT movement.” Read More

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Why School Tobacco Policy Matters
By Tracy DeCubellis, April 28, 2015

The topic of tobacco use in schools has been important for popular culture and academic research throughout the years.  Rock and Roll songs about smoking in school and movies showing rebellious teens smoking on campus are part of public perception about school tobacco use.  Since Brownsville Station observed back in 1973, “everybody knows that smoking ain’t allowed in school,” why does it still happen?  That is what researchers want to know.

School Bus

A recent look at school tobacco policies in Michigan and how they affect student smoking had some interesting results as reported in the Journal of School Health.

There is a statewide initiative in Michigan that encourages schools to create a 24/7 tobacco policy that covers on and off-campus activities and applies to all students, staff, and visitors.  This is similar to the school policy being encouraged in Florida through the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida.  Using the Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the researchers looked at data reported by students. They also looked at data from 14 schools using the Michigan School Health Profiles report.  The study also looked at individual and school-based variables that they thought would influence student tobacco use.

The results of the study showed that some school policies are indeed correlated with lower student tobacco use.  The findings suggest that schools should create a school-wide anti-tobacco message and culture.  This could include being sure students know the school tobacco policy, as well as giving students the message only a small percentage of adults actually use tobacco... Read More 

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Students Working Against Tobacco Youth Advocacy Board Films Educational Video
March 15 , 2015

Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) representative Jordan Marlett is a sophomore at Bronson High School and a member of the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB). The YAB is made up of three SWAT members from each of four regions in Florida, for a total of twelve statewide leaders. The YAB members are elected annually by their peers to serve as representatives on the statewide board. This youth board meets via conference call weekly, as regions monthly, and together as an entire board once a year.

The Youth Advocacy Board just held their annual face-to-face meeting, where the members came together for a weekend of planning for the future of SWAT. The YAB members and the alternate members for each region sharpened their public speaking skills by participating in two interesting projects during their weekend meeting: a video production and a community outreach event.

One of the highlights of the meeting was participating in the video production activity. The students spent the majority of the weekend with a video production and film crew. They were filming the first chapter of a video version of the statewide SWAT chapter manual, which educates new members about the SWAT organization, the tobacco issue, and tips for how to stay involved.  Jordan had a lot of fun participating as an actress in the video. “I believe the video we filmed will teach people about tobacco in an amusing way,” says Jordan, “I also believe the video will help recruit new members.” Read More

YAB Video Shoot

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QuitDoc Awarded Tobacco Prevention Grant for Levy County
February 6, 2015

Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation (QuitDoc) has once again been awarded a grant from the State of Florida Department of Health to continue to provide tobacco awareness and prevention programs throughout Levy County.  The programs are designed to reduce the number of teenagers who start smoking each year, to decrease the number of tobacco related deaths, and to provide information on appropriate methods to quit smoking.

The program is funded from a trust fund created with money paid to Florida as part of a settlement with the tobacco industry in 1997.   Florida sued the tobacco industry to recoup the cost of providing medical services to Florida residents that were caused by the use of tobacco.  The funding has been used to create Tobacco Free Florida, a comprehensive statewide tobacco prevention and cessation program.

“The Tobacco Free Florida program has been incredibly successful at reducing tobacco use among youth and adults in Florida,” reports Dr. Barry Hummel, a Pediatrician who co-founded QuitDoc.  “Use of traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, and spit tobacco are now at historic lows in the state among all age groups.”
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2014 FYTS Youth Rates

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Levy County Youth Tobacco Use Rates are Declining!
February 3, 2015

The Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) is administered annually in every county in Florida and is used to evaluate the impact of Tobacco Free Florida, the state’s program to prevent and reduce tobacco use. In Levy County, QuitDoc has been a grantee under Tobacco Free Florida since 2012. The Florida Departments of Children and Families, Education, Health, and Juvenile Justice have co-sponsored the Florida Youth Survey annually for the past 16 years.

County level data is collected every even-numbered year and the results from the 2014 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey were recently published. There is a lot to celebrate in Levy County! The Tobacco Free Partnership, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), and community partners who support the tobacco prevention program have been hard at work educating people, promoting tobacco cessation, and reducing secondhand smoke exposure through passing policies.

Since 2010, Levy County middle school students have reported a significant decrease in tobacco use for all areas, including cigarettes, cigars, smokeless, and all types of tobacco combined. Tobacco use is also declining for high school students in Levy. The biggest declines were seen in cigarette use for both middle and high school students. The percentages of middle and high school students who reported that smoking is allowed in their home also declined from 2010 to 2014. Read More

Levy FYTS Data

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Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco present before the Levy County Legislative Delegation
January 13 , 2015

On January 13, 2015, two Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members attended the Levy County Legislative Delegation meeting and presented information to Senator Charlie Dean and Representative Charlie Stone. The presentation emphasized the successes that SWAT and the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) have achieved this year in Levy County and the students also educated the delegation members about the dangers of flavored tobacco products, including cigars, blunt wraps, and smokeless tobacco.

Levy SWAT at Delegation Meeting
Elena Richardson (L) and Kimberly Rudin (R) make their presentation.

Chiefland High School SWAT Club Co-Chair, Elena Richardson, felt passionate about her opportunity to speak to state officials. “I think it’s good that adults see us speaking because it shows that teens and kids are concerned about our generation and the upcoming generation if Big Tobacco keeps targeting us and trying to get us hooked,” says Elena.

Kimberly Rudin is the Chair of the Chiefland High School SWAT club, and she was also very excited to present to the delegates, as this was her first experience attending a legislative delegation meeting. “Talking to state elected officials made me feel important because they were taking the time to hear our concerns about our generation being involved in smoking flavored tobacco,” says Kimberly. Read More

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Tobacco Free Partnership and College of Central Florida Host Great American Smokeout Health Fair
November 21, 2014

To celebrate the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout on November 20th, the Tobacco Free Partnership and the College of Central Florida (CF) partnered up to host a health fair to encourage staff, students, and the community to quit using tobacco, using the free resources that are available in Florida.

GASO Banner

This is the second year that this health fair has taken place and a total of 12 vendors attended and shared information with the staff and students of CF and community other members. Approximately 70 people attended the health fair, which was advertised around the community, in the newspapers, and through word of mouth.

Levy County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Kristina Zachry, helped organize the vendors for the event, which included tobacco prevention and cessation information from the Tobacco Free Partnership, blood pressure readings from nursing students, Zumba demonstrations, information about nutrition, diabetes, and exercise as well as blood glucose readings from the Florida Department of Health.  Other important health-related organizations that participated included the American Heart Association, Palms Medical Center, Another Way, Haven Hospice, Yoga Ya’ll, Levy County Emergency Management, the Levy County  Sheriff’s Office, and Chiefland Health & Fitness... Read More

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Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco Members Attend Regional Leadership Retreat
November 9, 2014

The Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida has created four regions in Florida for Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) County Chapters and each of these regions work together to achieve Florida’s tobacco prevention goals. Each region has three SWAT members who are elected to serve on a statewide Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) and one student is elected as an alternate for each region.

In November, Region 1 hosted a weekend SWAT Leadership Retreat in Panama City Beach. There were approximately 160 youth and more than 40 adults in attendance, representing each of the 18 counties in Region 1. The youth and adults who organized the event extended an invitation to the Region 2 SWAT YAB members to attend and serve as Regional Ambassadors for the weekend. Two YAB members and the YAB alternate attended from Region 2, representing Levy County and Putnam County.

SWAT Summit
Pictured from L to R: Lydia Delcambre (Santa Rosa County), Julia Osagie (Leon County), Jalissa Bellamy (Washington County), Abriyah Campbell (Putnam County), Kayla Spengemann (Putnam County), and Jordan Marlett (Levy County)

Levy County’s Jordan Marlett was one of the three Region 2 YAB members who attended.  “I am so grateful to Region 1 for welcoming us to join them on their retreat,” says Jordan, adding “I learned a lot and had so much fun.”

Speaking of learning and fun, the weekend was full of activities that engaged both large and small groups of youth in leadership and learning in a fun atmosphere. The theme for the retreat was “Tobacco Through the Decades” and the youth in attendance were broken up into sub-groups according to pre-assigned decades spanning from the 1950’s to the 2000’s. Each decade group created a presentation about the major tobacco events that took place during their assigned time period and then worked together to create their decade’s portion of a tobacco control timeline.

For the presentations, the students dressed in clothing representing their decade, played decade-appropriate music, and overall had a lot of fun with the activity. The information that each of the decade groups presented was also developed into a visual timeline in the form of a mural painted on a long art canvas. This art canvas can be shared at other Regional SWAT Retreats throughout Florida as a visual representation of tobacco control history... Read More

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Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco Chapter Wins First Place in Chiefland Chamber of Commerce’s Scarecrow Contest
October 31 , 2014

Several members of the Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter participated in planning and creating an anti-tobacco industry scarecrow display for the Chiefland Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Scarecrow Contest.

SWAT Scarecrow
Pictures from L to R: Kenneth Brown, Maria DePaz, Emma Ronchetti, and Julianna Justice

The SWAT students met after school in Chiefland three times to plan and assemble a display that included not one, but two scarecrows! The first scarecrow represented a tobacco industry executive, who was holding an arrow-shaped sign pointed at the second scarecrow, who was a small child. The sign said “Big Tobacco Targets Kids.” The tobacco executive was dressed in a suit and tie and the child was dressed in a t-shirt with a bull’s-eye on the front and he was wearing a pair of jeans. He was also holding a lollipop.

The SWAT scarecrow display’s message was that the tobacco industry targets children and teenagers with flavored tobacco products. To make sure that the message was communicated, the SWAT members created a graveyard with tombstones and various signs. The tombstones had epitaphs on them explaining how the person died from a tobacco-related death. For example, one epitaph read, “Here lies Brett who smoked his last cigarette.” In front of the tombstones, the students made giant pieces of colorful candy with cellophane and hay and laid them over the grave mounds... Read More

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Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Member Elected to Statewide Youth Advocacy Board
September 13, 2014

September 13th, 2014 was a busy day for Florida’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program. SWAT meetings took place in each of four regions across Florida on the same day, but in different locations.

Approximately 40 SWAT members attended to represent Region 2 in Orange Park, including Levy SWAT members Dakota Phillips, Emma Ronchetti, and Jordan Marlett. Dakota is a 9th grader and SWAT Co-Chair at Cedar Key School and Emma is a 7th grader at Chiefland Middle School. Jordan, a Bronson High School Sophomore and SWAT Club Co-Chair, not only attended the meeting, but she also co-facilitated a session.

Levy SWAT Team
Levy SWAT Representatives, L to R: Emma Ronchetti, Jordan Marlett, Dakota Phillips

The regional meetings were planned during the summer by the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB). YAB members and select adults in each region planned and facilitated the entire meeting, which began with interactive icebreaker activities. Levy County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Kristina Zachry, was one of the three adults from Region 2 who were responsible for co-planning the meeting with the YAB members.

Next, was a presentation called Tobacco 2.0: Making Tobacco History, which focused on providing information about current national and statewide tobacco control news. The presentation topics included the new Food and Drug Administration’s youth prevention campaign, The Real Cost; CVS stores becoming tobacco-free; the new Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health; and current electronic cigarette and hookah trends among Florida’s youth. Ms. Zachry spent many hours preparing the Tobacco 2.0 presentation with SWAT member Jordan Marlett, who co-presented that session with Kayla Spengemann, a senior SWAT member from Putnam County... Read More

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Cedar Key Passes Tobacco Product Placement Ordinance
August 19, 2014

For the first time since 2002, another city in Levy County is moving tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, behind the sales counters.

The City of Cedar Key has always been very supportive of promoting healthy lifestyles and preserving the environment. The city council had passed a resolution in 2012 concerning the sale of flavored tobacco products because they impact teen tobacco use rates, so it is no surprise that the city council recently took action to further protect children in their community from tobacco industry influence.  

Following a presentation to the Cedar Key Lions Club, the Mayor of Cedar Key invited members of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) to present to the city council on how the tobacco industry targets teens.

Emily Manis at Cedar Key City Council
Emily Manis presents before the City Council of Cedar Key.

SWAT member Emily Manis, a sophomore from Williston, presented information to the council members that included pictures of tobacco product displays on counter-tops and facts about how the industry targets teens, especially at retail outlets through advertising and product placement. She explained to the council that two out of three youth visit a convenience store at least once a week and studies show that youth are much more likely than adults to be influenced by tobacco promotions in convenience stores. She used the phrase “eye level is buy level” from tobacco industry documents, which note that tobacco products need to be placed where they will be seen. In her opinion, eye level for kids is counter-top height, which is exactly where these colorful tobacco displays are often placed... Read More

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Public Housing Residential Buildings in Levy County Are Going Smoke-Free
Policies Protect Residents From Secondhand Smoke and Smoking-Related Fires
June 5 , 2014

Bronson, FL  – Smoke-free multiunit housing, a growing trend throughout the country, has made its way to Levy County’s public housing.

Levy County public housing includes 124 units, and they have now implemented smoke-free policies. The growing list of smoke-free properties in the area includes all public housing covered by the North Central Florida Regional Housing Authority in Levy, Gilchrist, and Suwannee Counties.

“Residents at the Pines (in Chiefland) seem to be obeying the policy,” said Robert Williams, the Executive Director of the North Central Florida Regional Housing Authority. “Most really appreciate it and made comments that they were happy to live where restrictions were in place. Those that do smoke, you can see them sitting outside, so I feel the best thing I can say is that it's a work in progress and I believe deeply it's working for the better!”
Read More

TFF Infographic
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Florida Teens Win Top Awards Among
Youth Advocates Working Against Tobacco

Two Florida High School Students Were Honored in the Nation’s Capital
May 22 , 2014

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Magi Linscott, a Santa Rosa County high school student and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) youth advocate, was named the National Youth Advocate of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. This is the highest award among the country’s top youth advocates working against tobacco.

Chandler Ash from Gilchrist County was named the Southern Region Youth Advocate of the Year. Both Florida teens were honored in Washington, D.C., on May 15 along with three other U.S. regional winners and a group winner. More than 400 public health, political, civic and business leaders attended the 18th annual gala to recognize these young leaders.

The Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor outstanding young people who are among today's most effective leaders in tobacco control. These youth have fought hard to protect their generation from the dangers of tobacco by promoting tobacco prevention legislation, exposing tobacco marketing to kids, and keeping their peers from using tobacco... Read More

Florida Youth Advocates of the Year

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Levy SWAT Members Attend 8th Annual SWAT Advocacy Summit
May 13, 2014

Members of the Levy County chapter of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) attended the 8th annual Levy SWAT Advocacy Summit on May 13th at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, FL. There were a total of 116 youth in attendance at the event for an entire day of learning and teambuilding. SWAT teams from neighboring Marion and Putnam Counties also attended the summit to show their support and participate.

SWAT Summit Attendees

Levy County SWAT Representative and Statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board member, Emily Manis, helped plan and facilitate the summit this year along with the Levy County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Kristina Zachry, and input from her SWAT peers.

“We have a lot of younger members this year that are in 4th and 5th grade, which is the youngest age our program has ever reached,” said Ms. Zachry. “We had to go back to the basics and cover the tobacco issue in depth to give the newer members a strong foundation. We also wanted to incorporate some fun and active teambuilding activities to keep everyone’s attention and help us work better together. We asked some of our older returning SWAT members to help facilitate teambuilding for the large group, and they were eager to show their leadership and help out.” Read More

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Chiefland Middle School SWAT Youth Records Public Service Announcements for Local AM Radio Station
April 29, 2014

Members of Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County are determined to prevent tobacco use and secondhand smoke around kids, so they teamed up to record public service announcements for the radio in an effort to spread awareness of the tobacco issue and to recruit new SWAT members.

Chiefland Middle School SWAT member, Emma Ronchetti, recorded two public service announcements for use on WZCC broadcasting on AM940 in Chiefland and AM1240 in Cross City. Emma is a passionate and well-spoken new SWAT member and she jumped at the opportunity to educate her peers.

Emma Ronchetti

Emma just completed 6th grade, and even though she is young, she loves to challenge herself. “Doing the radio recording for the SWAT advertisement was a really good, new experience,” says Emma. “I had never recorded anything on the radio before, so I was kind of nervous. When I got to the recording studio and recorded my first advertisement and they played it back, I felt really proud of myself. It really made me feel more confident, and I’m really glad I had this experience... Read More

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Levy County Teens Tell Big Tobacco:
We are Not “Replacements”
March 19, 2014

The tobacco industry is losing customers. Not only are more smokers quitting, every day, an estimated 1,315 people in the United States die because of smoking. 

In response, the tobacco industry targets a new generation of potential nicotine addicts, which they call “replacement smokers.” A 1984 internal document from R.J. Reynolds’, the makers of Camel, stated: “Younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers… If younger adults turn away from smoking, the industry must decline, just as a population which does not give birth will eventually dwindle.”

On Kick Butts Day, Levy County’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Clubs spoke up and took action to let Big Tobacco know they will not be replacements. Kick Butts Day was celebrated this year on March 19, and it is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ national day of activism that empowers youth to fight back against Big Tobacco. This year, Levy SWAT members participated in a statewide SWAT campaign called “Not a Replacement,” where they joined thousands of youth across Florida to declare to Big Tobacco that they are “Not a Replacement”. SWAT members and other youth have told tobacco companies that they are unique individuals, with the potential to make a positive impact on their community.

Not a Replacement
Jadyn Beckham (left, Cedar Key School) and Emily Manis (right, Williston High School)
declare their independence from Big Tobacco!

Youth across the state collected pictures of themselves, or “Selfie Statements,” where they declared why they are “Not a Replacement” for the people who die every day from tobacco-related causes. Levy SWAT members  were very creative in their reasons for not being a replacement, citing reasons like athleticism, being a dreamer or leader, and free from addiction, among others. Read More

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SWAT Youth from Levy County Attend Advocacy Board Meeting and Team-Building Challenge
March 16, 2014

Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) member, Emily Manis, is a freshman at Williston High School, and a member of the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB). The YAB is made up of three SWAT members from each of four regions in Florida, for a total of twelve statewide leaders. The YAB members are elected annually by their peers to represent them on the statewide board. This youth board meets via conference call weekly, as regions monthly, and together as an entire board once a year.

On March 14-16, The Youth Advocacy Board just held their annual face-to-face meeting, where the members came together for a weekend of teambuilding and planning for the future of SWAT. The YAB members and the alternate members for each region spent the weekend in workshops, where they worked on updating SWAT items such as the statewide SWAT bylaws and the SWAT member handbooks.

YAB Meeting

In addition to working on bylaws and handbooks, the YAB members had an opportunity to meet the statewide media vender, Alma DDB, who is responsible for creating the Tobacco Free Florida advertising campaigns and the youth media messages. The students worked with the members of Alma to give their opinion on the youth prevention media campaign, and they tasked Alma with creating some updated SWAT club materials... Read More

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Town of Otter Creek Passes Flavored Tobacco Resolution
November 18 , 2013

On November 18, 2013, the Town of Otter Creek passed a resolution concerning the sale of flavored tobacco products, joining the growing list of municipalities in Levy County that have passed similar resolutions to date. 

Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Representative, 9th grader Emily Manis, presented to the Otter Creek Town Council and educated them about the dangers of flavored tobacco products.  She made the point that the tobacco industry deliberately packages and flavors these products like candy to attract the eye of vulnerable youth. Emily passed around a bowl full of actual flavored tobacco products and encouraged the council members to open the packages and smell the sweet flavors. Each of the council members agreed that the flavors and colors of the packages resemble candy and they were appalled that these products are available in Levy County... Read More

Otter Creek Presentation
Emily Manis presents before the Otter Creek Town Council

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Levy County Tobacco Prevention Advocates Share Information at Local County Legislative Delegation Meeting
October 29 , 2013

On October 29, 2013, the Chair of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County and a representative of the Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) attended the County Legislative Delegation meeting. These tobacco-free leaders presented information to Senator Charlie Dean and Representative Charlie Stone. The presentations emphasized the successes that the Partnership and SWAT have achieved this year in Levy County.

Art Konstantino is the Chair of the Levy Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP), and he prepared a heartfelt speech for the delegates emphasizing his stance on addiction and prevention. He also noted that state preemption of local smoking laws significantly stands in the way of passing local policies to designate parks and other outdoor recreation areas as tobacco-free, which is a personal goal of his.

When asked about his experience interacting with the delegates, Mr. Konstantino described it as “exhilarating.” He also noted that he strongly believes that, “given clear evidence, lawmakers want to embrace what is best for the people.” He adds, “I believe in our officials in the State of Florida. We look forward to working further with our leaders to make our environment safe for everyone.” Read More

Levy Delegation
Left: Art Art Konstantino (L) and Emily Manis (C) meet Representative Charlie Stone;
Right: Emily Manis share her display.

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Frequently-Asked Questions About E-Cigarettes
By Tracy DeCubellis, M.S., Gilchrist County Tobacco Prevention Specialist , September 20, 2013

Recently, many people have come to me with questions about an emerging product on the market called e-cigarettes.  There has been a lot of confusion about e-cigarettes, and most people have limited information gathered from advertisements or word of mouth from friends. I have put together the most frequently asked questions about e-cigarettes, along with the answers, to inform communities with currently updated information. 

What is an e-cigarette?
An e-cigarette is a battery-powered nicotine delivery device that contains a cartridge filled with what the manufacturers often call “liquid”.  This “liquid” often includes candy flavoring, nicotine, and chemicals to create a “vapor”.  Most e-cigarette companies offer cartridges of differing nicotine levels, although no testing has been conducted to verify those claims. 

E-Cigarette Components

Are e-cigarettes considered tobacco?
The FDA has jurisdiction over tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, and has stated the intent to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product... Read More

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City of Cedar Key Passes Flavored Tobacco Resolution
September 17 , 2013

On September 17th, Cedar Key joined the growing list of cities in Levy County that have passed a resolution concerning the sale of flavored tobacco products.

Two Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members presented to the Cedar Key City Council and educated them about the dangers of flavored tobacco products.  The students made the point that the tobacco industry deliberately packages and flavors these products like candy to attract the eye of vulnerable youth.

SWAT Youth Address Cedar Key City Council
SWAT Youth address the Cedar Key City Council.

Kent Sloan, a seventh grader and SWAT member at Cedar Key School, said “I am really excited that I got to speak to the city council for SWAT that that our resolution passed unanimously.” This was Kent’s first experience presenting to a city council to ask for a policy change and he is looking forward to presenting to the city of Otter Creek in the near future to ask for a similar resolution... Read More

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Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco Members Continue Statewide Leadership
September 14, 2013

On September 15, 2013, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members from twenty-one counties in North Florida attended a regional youth meeting.

The purpose of the meeting was to elect three new Regional SWAT Representatives and to receive education on various tobacco issues that are relevant to the SWAT program. A total of five Levy SWAT members (Emily Manis, [Williston High], Dakota Woodruff [Chiefland High], Jordan Marlett and Chyann Kendall [Bronson High]) and one member who recently graduated (Ansley Pentz [Chiefland High, now University of Florida]) attended the meeting.

Emily Manis is a freshman at Williston High School and the new Levy County SWAT Representative. She volunteered to give a presentation to her peers at the meeting on tobacco Point of Sale issues. The students in attendance also received education and information delivered by their peers, including tobacco 101, electronic cigarettes, the theme for a statewide SWAT initiative, and strategies for running a SWAT meeting... Read More

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Flavored Tobacco Resolutions adopted in the City of Williston, Town of Bronson, and Town of Inglis
June 1, 2013

In a whirlwind of activity, members of the Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program presented information about how flavored tobacco targets teenagers to decision makers for the Town of Bronson and the City of Williston. Additionally, the Chair of the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Levy County contacted decision makers for the Town of Inglis and educated them about these deceptive tobacco products, which have been proven to encourage youth to try tobacco. These education activities resulted in three flavored tobacco resolutions being adopted in a very short span of time.

On April 15th, the Bronson Town Council voted 3-0 to proclaim a resolution asking retailers to remove flavored tobacco products from the view of children, which was in line with a discussion that they had at a meeting on March 5th, where senior SWAT members Ansley Pentz (Chiefland High School) and Casey Ranalli (Bronson High School) presented compelling facts and shared samples of flavored tobacco products with the council members. The students educated the council about flavored tobacco products, noting how the bright coloring of the packaging, fruity flavors and even the package designs themselves, are all tobacco industry tactics intended to encourage teenagers to use tobacco products. “They come in all kinds of flavors – mint, strawberry, vanilla, [and] fruity flavors,” says Casey Ranalli. “The packaging colors are bright and vibrant”... Read More_____________________________________________________________________

SWAT Students from Levy County Contribute to "Who is the Target", a Short Film on Youth Tobacco Marketing
April 24, 2014

Students from six counties in North Central Florida joined forces to write and produce "Who is the Target", a short film that focuses on the use of flavored products as a youth marketing strategy by tobacco companies.

Fourteen students from Alachua, Clay, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy, and Marion Counties were asked to contribute facts and information on the issue of flavored tobacco products that are not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The students then recorded the information at a make-shift studio. Levy County SWAT students Ansley Pentz, Katy Belnap, and Christian Aracena participated in the project... Read More

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Members of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy
County Share Their Thoughts on Tobacco Prevention
with Congressman Ted Yoho
April 4, 2014

Freshman Congressman Ted Yoho held a special town hall meeting as part of his first major in-district return after 10 weeks in Washington, DC. 

Cindy Mulvey and Art Konstantino, active members of the Tobacco Free Partnerships in both Marion and Levy Counties, were participants in the crowd and had front row seats! Read More 

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Levy County SWAT Members Present Before the Bronson Town Council for a Flavored Tobacco Resolution
March 4, 2013

Seniors Ansley Pentz and Casey Ranalli are part of Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco, or SWAT. At the regular Bronson Town Council meeting on March 4th, they told the Council members that tobacco companies have begun marketing flavored products such as dip, snuff, twist tobacco, chewing tobacco, cigarillos, and cigars. The flavors include green apple, cherry, grape, chocolate, mango, and peach, among others. The students presented facts about flavored tobacco products to the members of the Bronson Town Council in the hopes that the Council will pass a resolution concerning the sale of these products... Read More


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Levy County SWAT Member Facilitates Regional SWAT Meeting
March 2, 2013

Chiefland High School Senior and Statewide Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Vice-Chair, Ansley Pentz, co-facilitated and planned the Region 2 SWAT Meeting, which took place on March 2, 2013.

The SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB), which Ansley is a member of, planned the entire agenda for the regional meetings, which took place in each of the four regions of Florida at the same time in different locations. A total of 40 SWAT members attended the Region 2 meeting, including two other Levy SWAT members, Dakota Woodruff and Chyann Kendall. Dakota is an 8th grader at Chiefland High School and Chyann Kendall is a sophomore at Bronson High School... Read More

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Levy County SWAT Youth Records Public Service Announcements for Local AM Radio Station
February 5, 2013

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and the Levy Tobacco-Free Partnership (Levy TFP) have partnered in the fight against tobacco use around kids.  90% of tobacco users begin their addiction before they are 18 years old.

Levy County SWAT leader, Ansley Pentz, who also sits on the statewide SWAT Youth Advisory Board, wrote and recorded three public service announcements for use on WZCC broadcasting on AM 940 in Chiefland and AM 1240 in Cross City... Read More

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New Court Ruling on Flavored Tobacco Products
Reprinted from ChangeLab Solutions (formerly known as Public Health Law & Policy)
December 13, 2012

This week a federal court in Rhode Island upheld local laws in Providence that limit the sale of flavored tobacco products and restrict certain price-discounting tactics. Earlier this year Providence enacted a local ordinance limiting the sale of flavored, non-cigarette products within the city... Read More

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Levy County's Ansley Pentz Shares Her Thoughts on the Recent Statewide SWAT Meeting in Orlando, Florida.
August 20, 2012

In the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, the college guide to reading between the lines, every literary meal was an act of communion.  Every.  Single.  Meal. At the SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) statewide meeting, active members shared a total of six meals together.  So there were six acts of, according to my AP Literature summer homework, communion... Read More

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Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation Awarded Tobacco Prevention Grant for Levy County

The Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation has been awarded a grant from the State of Florida Department of Health to provide tobacco awareness and prevention programs throughout Levy County.  The programs are designed to reduce the number of teenagers who start smoking each year, to decrease the number of tobacco related deaths, and to provide information on appropriate methods to quit smoking...
Read More