SWAT gives youth the tools to change the way people think about tobacco

Posted 6/4/24

The need for youth to speak up and make their voices heard about the issues they care...

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SWAT gives youth the tools to change the way people think about tobacco

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The need for youth to speak up and make their voices heard about the issues they care about is as important as ever, which is why one student-led organization in Florida is leading the way in the fight against the tobacco industry and the addictive products that target youth.

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) is a statewide youth organization focused on educating, empowering, and mobilizing Florida youth to revolt against and de-glamorize the tobacco industry. As a member of the Glades County SWAT chapter, I believe SWAT is an important cause more youth should get involved in. Through my involvement with SWAT, I have gained valuable leadership skills and made meaningful connections with peers who share my passion of ending youth vaping and creating a tobacco free community for future generations. Despite significant progress over the years, tobacco and e-cigarette use is still prevalent, and the tobacco industry’s antics must be stopped. SWAT is working to change the social norms associated with tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

SWAT has been educating and empowering youth and communities since 1998. SWAT has had several successful initiatives throughout the years. ‘Not a Replacement’ was a statewide campaign where thousands of youth reminded tobacco companies that they are unique individuals with the potential to make a positive impact on their community. ‘Not a Lab Rat’ is the current statewide campaign that focuses on the truth behind e-cigarettes and how youth can stop the spread of misinformation. Through such initiatives, SWAT continues to work toward changing the way people think about tobacco, making it less desirable, less acceptable and less accessible.

My reason for joining SWAT was clear. I joined because I realize I have the power to make a difference and I want to make a positive difference in my school and community; I joined to help my peers that are battling with nicotine addiction. There are so many kids my age that vape without knowing the dangers. Joining SWAT helped me by educating me and in turn, allowing me to educate my peers and people in my community about the risks of tobacco and vaping. Through SWAT, I found my voice and learned how to use it to advocate for positive change in my community.

In our community, the Glades SWAT chapter helped make a difference by recruiting new and energetic members during the Annual Back-to-School Expo, organizing educational campaigns in schools, participating in local community events and programs such as the Annual Winter and Fall Festivals to promote the dangers of youth tobacco use and vaping and Washington Park Community Association – Black History Program to educate residents about the impact menthol has on the community, and collaborating with the local tobacco free partnership and local policymakers to advocate for tobacco-free policies in schools and at outdoor public spaces.

There is still work to be done to protect our generation and future generations from the tobacco industry. By working with peers, students can create change that will keep tobacco products out of Glades County and improve the health of our family, friends, and community. SWAT is open to all Florida youth in 6th-12th grade. There is a SWAT chapter in every county in Florida, and some counties also have clubs in schools and community organizations. In Glades County, we have SWAT clubs at Moore Haven Middle High School and West Glades School.

If you are interested in learning more about SWAT and how youth can get involved, contact Teresa Coco at 863-265-6040 or visit www.SWATFlorida.com. I hope that in writing this, more youth are inspired to stand up and speak out against the tobacco industry by joining SWAT.

SWAT, students working against tobacco, smoking,

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