News and Events

Highlands County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members Attend Regional Training
December 5, 2018

Hurricane Michael may have cancelled the originally scheduled Regional 3 SWAT meeting, but it didn’t dampen spirits during the make-up meeting held on November 10, 2018 in Kissimmee, Florida. Maria Ramos and Maritza Palacios, two of our sophomores from Lake Placid High School, attended to represent the SWAT Chapter of Highlands County. The morning was kicked off with interactive icebreaker activities to introduce themselves to other region 3 SWAT members and to get to know them for the remaining of the day filled with group activities.

Photovoice was one of the main topics of the day, which is an excellent tool to use when there is a need to create awareness around a certain issue or concern. The YAB members gave examples of tobacco issues in our communities and showed how Photovoice is an effective tool to raise awareness and to reach state and local policymakers with solutions. In addition, the Not a Lab Rat Campaign was also a huge part of the YAB presentation that included the history and marketing of ENDS, as well as a SWAT call to action. Amendment 9, the FDA cracking down on vaping and lobbying vs. advocating were just a few other topics heard and overall SWAT youth seemed to really enjoy their day! Read More      

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Helping Employees Quit Tobacco
November 28, 2018

In observance of the Great American Smokeout (GASO) this year The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County and tobacco prevention program staff encouraged employers across in Highlands County to support their employees to quit smoking. The Great American Smokeout raises awareness about the dangers of smoking and the many effective resources available to help smokers successfully quit.

Grantee staff were thrilled to provide numerous businesses in Highlands County with resources that promoted Tobacco Free Florida’s ‘Quit Your Way’ program, as well as more information on Tobacco Free Worksites and the many benefits of tobacco free employees. Other promotional and fun items were handed out and all of this together created a very informative and exciting display for employees.

“This is such a fun way to raise awareness about the Great American Smokeout and encourage your employees to quit and we plan on celebrating this way every year,” said Amanda John, Community Health Advocate. “It is a fact that a lot of smokers want to quit, which is why supporting and encouraging them in a positive way may be what it takes for them to commit to quitting.” Read More

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Highlands County Students Working Against Tobacco Prepare for the 2018-2019 School Year
September 5, 2018

The SWAT Chapter of Highlands County held its first summer program in June and July. Typically, the SWAT Chapter is relatively quiet in the summertime since school is out and people are vacationing, however when the SWAT advisors mentioned a summer program, members were ALL in!

The main focus this year was teambuilding and electronic cigarette education in conjunction with the #notalabrat campaign. SWAT youth and advisors met every Tuesday from 9AM – 1PM and although attendance was not as high as a typical SWAT meeting, it was nice to have SWAT members from different clubs all in the same place.

“We rarely have SWAT Chapter meetings, only individual club meetings, so it was nice for some of the other SWAT members to meet their peers from other schools,” said Amanda John, Tobacco Prevention Specialist in Highlands County. “We did icebreakers, teambuilding and learned so many neat ways to incorporate the #notalabrat campaign in the upcoming school year.” Read More

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Tobacco Enters Our Community in the Retail Environment, Where it is Visible and Cheap
September 4, 2018

The tobacco industry spends the vast majority of their marketing money in the retail environment – over $1 million/hour to promote their products, in which, most of their marketing efforts are aimed directly to our kids.

Essentially, the tobacco industry is buying shelf space to keep tobacco visible and offering price discounts to keep tobacco cheap. These companies are no fool, what they are really “buying” is youth who initiate - adults who can’t quit! 

In efforts to combat these marketing tactics, the Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County has been elbow deep in the retail realm of the tobacco industry for the past few years. During the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year, adult TFP members, along with the help of Highlands County SWAT Youth, conducted over 100 point of sale (POS) store audits, nearly every licensed tobacco retailer in Highlands County. Read More

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Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce Adopts Tobacco-Free Worksite Policy
June 6, 2018

The Tobacco Free Partnership works diligently at helping businesses create smoke and tobacco free workplaces. This is based on the impact that smoke-free workplace legislation, including smoking restrictions in restaurants, has made on youth tobacco use. Smoke-free policies help young people to realize that tobacco use is not a "normal" adult behavior... an attitude that the tobacco industry has marketed for years.

The Partnership is excited to announce that the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce is doing just that with the creation of a tobacco free worksite policy that has placed stricter regulations on employees and visitors. In addition to the worksite policy, the Chamber has also adopted a Tobacco Free Events Policy, which prohibits tobacco use at all events hosted by the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce.

“Tobacco Free Worksite Policies are obviously very important to us, but what most employers do not think about is just how important it is for them,” said Amanda John, Community Health Advocate with QuitDoc Foundation. Read More

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The Use of JUUL Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems on the Rise Among Highlands County Youth
May 31, 2018

"Juuling". A terrifying, highly addictive new trend that’s vastly popular among teens throughout the United States. JUUL is an electronic nicotine delivery system that is being used at home and even at school with ease, because it is so easy to conceal. In fact, students at school are taking every opportunity they can to take a hit and blowing into their backpacks, hats, or sweaters as soon as their teachers turn around. Not to mention, if you’ve never seen one, you’d have no idea that the slim and sleek USB flash drive looking mechanism is actually storing nicotine, instead of computer files and packs as much nicotine in one pod as an entire pack of cigarettes.

While tobacco use in Highlands County continues to decrease, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS), the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) is on the rise. While the manufacturers of JUUL insist that it the device is intended exclusively for adult use, it is appealing to youth because it is easy to conceal, can be charged using a laptop, and the pods are available in flavors such as mango, mint, and chocolate.

“We are very likely to see an increase in the use of ENDS products in the next set of FYTS results that we receive,” said Amanda John, Tobacco Prevention Specialist in Highlands County. “The scary part is that some parents have probably seen them, even touched them and had no idea what they were.” Read More

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Rural Communities Such as Highlands County Have Higher Rates of Tobacco Use
February 27, 2018

Most people in this world today realize and have learned the threat tobacco use poses to their health. The serious health risks have been discussed for decades in school health classes, by parents, doctors and by prevention experts and programs. While tobacco use continues to decline, we still have at risk communities all over the United States that have much higher usage rates than others.

Research has shown that rural communities like Highlands County, Florida, are more heavily affected by cigarette and smokeless tobacco use. In fact, the health of people living in rural areas is impacted by tobacco use more so than those in urban and metropolitan areas, often because of socioeconomic factors such as lower levels of education, and higher levels of unemployment.

According to the American Lung Association, smokers living in rural areas are more likely to smoke 15 or more cigarettes per day than smokers living in urban areas.

Because of their low socioeconomic status, those people are also exposed to secondhand smoke more often and are less likely to successfully quit, even after multiple attempts. In addition, teens in rural populations also smoke more and at earlier ages than their urban peers making them replacement smokers for their elder counterparts that have died off from tobacco use. Read More

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Local Tobacco Prevention Efforts are Showcased at Highlands County Fair
February 22, 2018

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County and the Highlands County SWAT Chapter participated in the annual Highlands County Fair from February 9-17th, 2018. The fair has become an annual sponsorship for the Tobacco Free Partnership and this year was a great success with the same theme, but a different approach! The Highlands County Fair took place over 8 days in Highlands County and included fair rides, an exhibit hall, live-stock show, and more.  It captured community members, business leaders, youth and parents from all over the county, who were provided with information on the dangers of smokeless tobacco and secondhand smoke exposure.    

Moreover, since it was the week before “Through With Chew Week,” the TFP and SWAT Clubs kicked off the celebrations a week early, by centering their booth design around the holiday. The students showed up with their SWAT T-shirts on, hand-made signs and TWCW material provided by the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida. They also displayed other educational items such as “Mr. Gross Mouth,” and “Mr. Dip Lip,” which were a big hit!

Perhaps the most exciting change this year was the Skip the Dip “Selfie Station.” Fairgoers and youth were encouraged to take a Healthy Selfie, with the props and backdrop provided. Selfies were posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #HighlandsTWCW2018. There were numerous people that stopped to selfie, to chat and to gather material. Read More

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Local Employers Benefit from Adoption of Tobacco Free Workplace Policies
November 16, 2017

Highlands County, Florida – Several local workplaces are making big strides in supporting the health and well-being of their employees by adopting tobacco free workplaces.

For example, Highlands Regional Medical Center adopted a comprehensive tobacco free workplace policy, supporting their employees’ efforts to quit smoking, enhancing their current wellness policies and updating insurance benefits that include money saving incentives to non-nicotine users.

The tobacco free policy includes the hospital grounds. Current employees are able to take free cessation classes through the free Quit Your Way program offered by Tobacco Free Florida and enjoy the benefits of a tobacco free lifestyle.

Additionally, for those businesses that do not offer insurance to employees, there are multiple other avenues to explore while creating policy within the workplace. Many small businesses throughout the county have also adopted tobacco free work site policies that include no-smoking in company vehicles, tobacco free grounds and promoting Quit Your Way to their employees. Read More

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The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County is Working to Expand Breathe Easy Zones
November 14, 2017

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County coordinates tobacco prevention efforts throughout Highlands County. The primary goal of the group is to create local tobacco-free policies.

Such policy change does not occur overnight. There is a huge educational component that is required to foster policy change. The Tobacco Free Partnership conducts a wide variety of community outreach and educational programs designed to explain the importance, and the need for new, stricter tobacco free policies.

The Partnership works on the following policy initiatives in Highlands County:

Read More

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Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing Options Expand in Highlands County
August 30, 2017

There are many assertions as to why smoke-free housing is the right thing to do.  Tenant Rights, Fair Housing, Americans with Disability Act Claims, Quiet Enjoyment, Fire Hazzard, Insurance Claims, Complaints, Unnecessary Damage & Expense.  In the end however,  many properties just decided it is the right thing to do, which is exactly what FOUR multi-unit housing properties did last quarter in Highlands County, with the help of Amanda John, Tobacco Prevention Specialist.    

Three of the four properties are managed by Hallmark Properties, who recently decided to make the change and all properties would become smoke-free as of June 2017. Citrus Terrace, Herons Landing and Placid Arms, all in Highlands County, made the big announcement in April and were met with many complaints. However, it was either, quit smoking in your apartment, outside of your apartment and only in designated areas, OR move out. “At first, tenants were outraged, but they got over it once they realized we were serious,” said Libby, Manager at Herons Landing, “they didn’t want to be forced to move out.”  Citrus Terrace and Placid Arms managers also reported that they were faced with the same response initially, but overall the transition has been much easier than originally expected.

Highlands Village, a property managed by American Apartment Management, also decided to take the plunge and create a healthier, cleaner environment for their tenants, by implementing a smoke-free policy. Their tenants were equally as outraged and they received major backlash from some saying they would not stop smoking in their apartments and a few even threatened to move out. “We knew it would not be taken seriously at first, but after we had several meetings, put up signage, and created designated smoking areas the mood changed a little bit and people started to calm down,” said Marta Ortega, Manager at Highlands Village.    

Read More

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Highlands County Students Working Against Tobacco Youth Attend Statewide SWAT Meeting
July 1, 2017

Two Highlands County SWAT youth Lake Placid High School attended the Statewide SWAT meeting that was held in Leesburg Florida June 9-11th. 

SWAT youth participated in numerous breakout sessions over the course of three days including: SWAT 101, The SWAT Brand, M.A.D. (Message, Audience, Delivery) Presentation Skills, Your community Your canvas, ENDs and how they are targeting the youth, and how to recruit new SWAT youth.  The SWAT youth also participated in a scavenger hunt throughout the three-day event, and the topic of the hunt was the history of SWAT. 

Our Region 3 youth participated in the YAB elections and elected new YAB officers to represent our region for the 2017-2018 school year.  The highlight of the event was the talent show and red-carpet dance, where students could dance the night away with new and old friends. Read More

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Tobacco Free Partnership Evaluates Point-of-Sale Tobacco Marketing in Local Retail Outlets
May 17, 2017

The Tobacco Free Partnership has been elbow deep in the retail realm of the tobacco industry the past few quarters. With over 100 store audits assigned throughout Highlands County, stores were surveyed and the data collected has been processed and recorded into the Florida Tobacco Mapper. Phase two has begun in this process, and the Tobacco Free Partnership has completed its needs assessment based on the data collected.

Among the findings, it was discovered that:

Read More

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Highlands County Students Working Against Tobacco Celebrate Earth Day Removing Litter from School Campuses
April 22, 2017

Earth Day is an annual event created to celebrate the planet's environment and raise public awareness about pollution. It is observed worldwide with rallies, conferences, outdoor activities and service projects and this year the Highlands County SWAT Chapter Hosted several trash clean ups around school campus and nearby properties.

Showing Mother Nature a little love during the days leading up to Earth Day, groups of SWAT youth and SWAT advisors spent several afternoons cleaning up litter around their school campus. Armed with garbage bags, and gloves, the students worked together to make their environment litter free and more beautiful. There were bags and bags of trash that included soda cans, fast food wrappers, lighters, tobacco cans, cigarette butts, batteries, papers, metal scraps, gum wrappers, and one student even found a broken electronic cigarette. It opened their eyes not only making them realize how much people litter, but also how a great portion of their bags included cigarette butts, and smokeless tobacco trash.

While most students participated in the clean-up, each school had an Earth Day inspired table, with examples of the types of litter picked up, and information on smokeless tobacco and other tobacco related information. Read More

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The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County Started 2017 with a Bang!
March 13, 2017

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County had a busy beginning of 2017 with two sponsorships.

The Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet was the first and was held on January 26,2017. The banquet gathered over 700 employers and business leaders in Highlands County and recognized their achievements over the year.  The Highlands County Tobacco Free Partnership decided to sponsor this event because it would give them the opportunity to network with a multitude of business leaders and provide them with information on the benefits of employer cessation and tobacco free workplace policies.

 “We were once again very pleased with the outcome of this sponsorship, as this is the second time we have sponsored this event. We are looking forward to making positive changes in Tobacco Free Worksites in Highlands County,” said Amanda John, Community Health Advocate with QuitDoc Foundation.


Pictured L to R: Karen Ramos, Simanthe Watson, Kiara Swift attend the Highlands County Fair

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County and the Highlands County SWAT Chapter also participated in the annual Highlands County Fair from February 10-18th, 2017. The fair has become an annual sponsorship for the TFP and this year the booth was focused on smokeless tobacco. The Highlands County Fair took place over 8 days in Highlands County and included fair rides, an exhibit hall, live stock show, and more.  It captured community members, business leaders, youth and parents from all over the county, who were provided with information on the dangers of smokeless tobacco and secondhand smoke exposure. Read More

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

Sebring, Fla. – QuitDoc Foundation, The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County, the SWAT Chapter of Highlands County 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. 4.1 percent of youth ages 11-17 in Highlands County reported current use of smokeless tobacco products in 2016, 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 SWAT Chapter of Highlands County are hosting the a Through With Chew Week themed booth at the Highlands County Fair in Highlands County the week prior to TWCW. In addition, the SWAT clubs will participate in celebrations hosted at a few of the sporting complexes in Highlands County. The events will begin February 10th and run until the last day of Through with Chew Week on Feb. 25, 2017. 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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Traditional Tobacco Use Continues to Decrease Among Highlands County Youth, but E-Cigarette Use Continues to Rise
November 11, 2016

We are excited to announce the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey Results for Highlands County, as well as the statewide data for 2016 is in! This is something the Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT Students in Highlands County look forward to every other year!

The Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) was administered in the spring of 2016. A total of 753 public high schools and middle schools in the 67 Florida counties participated in the FYTS. There were 69,640 students who participated in the 2016 FYTS; 33,558 at the high school level and 36,082 at the middle school level. This data is way for public health professionals, students, teachers, parents, and the public to explore data pertaining to youth tobacco use.

In Highlands County, we are happy to announce a decrease in the percentage of youth who have tried cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. In fact, there was a 3.7% drop in those that have tried cigarettes, 6.7% drop in those that have tried cigars and a 2.5% drop in those that have tried smokeless tobacco.

Additionally, we see similar drops in the percentage of youth who currently use cigarettes (3.7% decrease), cigars (4.6% decrease) and smokeless (.3% decrease). For years, tobacco prevention has been at the forefront of providing education and information to decrease the use of tobacco in the Country, State of Florida and in Highlands County. It seems the work continues to pay off as we have seen a decrease in cigarettes, cigars and smokeless for several years now.

However, the raging epidemic of electronic cigarettes, hookah and vaping that Big Tobacco has created is making a mess of the hard work that we have done to minimize tobacco use in this country. We are seeing these effects nationwide, statewide and throughout Highlands County. In fact, since 2014 there has been an 8.2% increase in the percentage of youth in Highlands County who currently use electronic vaping, and a 13.1% increase in the percentage of youth in Highlands County who have ever tried electronic vaping. Additionally, we also see an increase 3.5% in the number of youth in Highlands County who have tried hookah. Read More

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Local Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members Attend Region Meeting in Wauchula County
November 11, 2016

Hurricane Matthew may have cancelled the originally scheduled Regional SWAT Retreat, but it didn’t dampen spirits during the make-up meeting held on November 5, 2016 at the Hardee County Health Department in Wauchula, Florida. Kyle and Hannah Workington, two of our top students from Lake Placid High School, attended to represent the SWAT Chapter of Highlands County. The morning was kicked off with interactive icebreaker activities to introduce themselves to other region 3 SWAT members and to get to know them for the remaining of the day filled with group activities.

Kyle is in his junior year at Lake Placid High School and has been a part of the dual SWAT/PAC club since he was in 7th grade. He currently serves as the club Vice President, is the President of the Junior Class, in National Honor Society and was the SWAT Club King at Homecoming in 2015 and 2016. Kyle plans on pursuing a career in either IT or in Politics and is smart enough to do it! “Kyle is an incredibly smart young man, has a great head on his shoulders, is always willing to help out and I love his enthusiasm for tobacco prevention. He is a STELLAR SWAT youth and a great candidate for next year’s Youth Advocacy Board. The SWAT Chapter of Highlands County is lucky to have such a strong leader,” said Amanda John.

His younger sister Hannah, has been in PAC since she was in 6th Grade. She is currently in her Freshman year at Lake Placid High School and is one of the most active and dependable SWAT Students in the entire SWAT Chapter of Highlands County. She currently does not hold an office, but will be encouraged to do so next year. She was also the SWAT Club Queen at Homecoming in 2016. “We are so lucky to have such a devoted, sweet and caring young girl in our SWAT Chapter of Highlands County and are super thrilled that she has 3 more years in SWAT before she graduates. This girl will move mountains and is an awesome voice for tobacco prevention in Highlands County, as well as statewide,” said Amanda John. Read More

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Tobacco Free Florida and Tobacco free Partnership of Highlands 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 Highlands County encourage tobacco users to use the date to make a quit plan in advance or to quit smoking on that day – November 17.

The nationally celebrated Great American Smokeout, now in its 41st year,    challenges people to stop using tobacco and helps them learn about the many   tools they can use to help them quit and stay quit.

Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County is raising awareness of 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 tools and services 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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The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County Discusses New Tobacco Prevention Initiatives for the Upcoming Year
August 26, 2016

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County is trying something new this year and changing up the quarterly meeting to a more interactive and innovative way to host the meeting. The first meeting this quarter was held on August 26, 2016 at Nutmegs Café, a locally owned establishment with a charming atmosphere and friendly staff. This choice was made after a Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida workshop training that stressed the importance of being more productive. It’s not only about quantity, rather the quality of the members that you have at your table.

The meeting gave members the opportunity to relax, brainstorm, and enjoy their time processing and discussing tobacco policy initiatives, while enjoying their lunch.

“Let’s face it, people love to eat, they love Friday’s, and who wouldn’t enjoy a hot Italian panini while discussing things they’re passionate about. It’s almost like it isn’t work and your weekend starts early,” said Amanda John, Community Health Advocate in Highlands County. “It really was a breath of fresh air and even though our attendance was low, we go so much accomplished at the same time! I love the idea of jazzing up a typical meeting and I am really looking forward to the things we accomplish and new people we recruit along the way!”

A large portion of the meeting consisted of a Point-of-Sale mini training and presentation.  Recently, Highlands tobacco prevention staff attended a two-day training on Point-of-Sale hosted by Counter Tools and the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida. At this training, staff were trained on Big Tobacco’s deceptive marketing and advertising techniques to better appeal to youth, non-smokers and even smokers who are trying to quit. Read More

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Avon Park High School Holds Annual SWAT Recruitment Event
August 25, 2016

Perhaps the most successful SWAT recruitment was held at Avon Park High School this quarter. The NOISE, the EXCITEMENT and the LAUGHTER brought so much spirit to Avon Park High School’s rush day. Rush day is a day set aside for all clubs and sports to recruit new members and it was definitely a RUSH being there.

The SWAT club’s sophomore President and long-time member, Savannah Oldfield, did an excellent job reeling people in. The SWAT advisor, SWAT coordinator and Highlands Tobacco Prevention Specialist were also there in hopes to attract students to become a part of the dual SWAT and Pac (Positive Action Club). There was a booth set up with pictures, give aways, flyers and membership forms. The sign-up sheet was full half way through the event and the only thing remaining on the table at the end was a pencil. There were so many students that stopped by to learn more about the SWAT/PAC club and many of them signed the recruitment form, wanting more information and to become a part of the club.

“Today was incredible,” said Amanda John, Community Health Advocate for QuitDoc Foundation.  “We ran into several of our old middle school SWAT students that have now moved up to High School and plan on continuing their SWAT membership. And Savannah… she’s a rockstar! She pulled so many people in with her fun personality and positive attitude, I’m sure this club will increase its membership this year!” Read More

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Tobacco Control Advocates in Highlands County Begin a Survey of Point-of-Sale Tobacco Advertising
June 1, 2016

The Highlands County Tobacco Free Partnership Members and SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) have a new project in the works to assess local tobacco marketing practices at the retail level! This new project is set to begin in Quarter one of our new fiscal year and Tobacco Prevention Specialist Amanda John, will be attending a training to learn more about the new assessments and what that will entail for Highlands County.

“Several of our other counties have already begun participating in this new project and I am so excited to bring this to Highlands County. I’m very anxious to see what this data will show and I am hopeful that this will help initiate additional tobacco control policies within Highlands County, said Amanda.

Tobacco companies spend $10-$13 billion dollars a year to market their products. These companies spend close to $1 billion dollars in Florida alone. This represents $7,700-$10,000 dollars spent to recruit each of the 1.3 million new teenage smokers who pick up their first cigarette every year. 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

Highlands County, Fla. –The Florida Department of Health’sTobacco Free Florida program and QuitDoc 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 Floridians 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. Even if there is not a smoker in your home, secondhand smoke can enter your home in a multiunit building through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing and electrical lines, and even to units on other floors.
Read More

 

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Highlands County Youth Work Toward a Tobacco Free Future
March 21, 2016

SEBRING, Fla. – Highlands 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 16. This national day of activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, empowers youth to fight back against Big Tobacco.

Every day, about 1,300 people in the United States die because of smoking. In response, the tobacco companies target a new generation of potential customers. 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.”

Youth and young adults rarely consider the long-term health consequences of smoking when they start. Because of nicotine, a highly addictive drug, three out of four youth smokers continue smoking well into adulthood, often with serious and even deadly consequences. In fact, about half of long-term smokers die prematurely from smoking-related causes. Read More

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The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County Continues its Community Education and Outreach
March 4, 2016

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County had a busy beginning of 2016 with two Tobacco Free Worksite sponsorships. The Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet, gathered over 250 employers and business leaders in Highlands County and recognized their achievements over the year.  The Highlands County Tobacco Free Partnership decided to sponsor this event because it would give them the opportunity to network with a multitude of business leaders and provide them with information on the benefits of employer cessation and tobacco free workplace policies.

With the sponsorship, came an opportunity to decorate a table for further exposure and of course bragging rights. “This was the first year that the Partnership decided to sponsor this event so we went in not knowing the extent of what table decorating meant,” Said Amanda John, Community Health Advocate for QuitDoc Foundation.  “This was obviously, a challenge that some people looked forward to every year and take VERY seriously.” The QuitDoc and Partnership table went along with the Chamber theme, which was celebrating 100 Years of the Sebring Chamber. There were cards made with a $100 grand candy bars that read “Save your business $100 grand by changing your tobacco policies.” Or “Save yourself $100 grand and don’t smoke.”  There was also a list of 100 things to do in Sebring other than smoking. Read More

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

SEBRING, 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.

Youth cigarette smoking rates in Florida are at an all-time low; in addition, just 1.8 percent of high school students in Highlands County reported current use of smokeless tobacco products in 2014, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. This is significantly lower than 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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The Highlands County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter Start the Year in Grand Style!
November 20, 2015

The Highlands County SWAT Chapter has had a HUGE quarter! The 7 clubs that make up the Highlands County SWAT Chapter, had 12 total meetings and participated in several community events. Officers were elected in a few of the newer clubs, new SWAT t-shirts and other materials were handed out to members, recruitment events proved to be effective, and SWAT Sweethearts appeared in the High School Homecoming parades.

Students at our 4 middle schools participated in SWAT promoted Red Ribbon Week Events. They dressed in their SWAT shirts for one of the dress days, hung SWAT signs they created to advertise about Red Ribbon Week and the dangers of using tobacco. The students also participated in the statewide SWAT Hashtag challenge, by taking photos of themselves with their signs and using the designated hash tag provided by Youth Advocacy Board. Although, Highlands County didn’t make it in the top 10 like they did the month prior, they tried very hard and raised awareness while doing it!

Homecoming Parade

The Lake Placid High School Club and the Avon Park High School Club had the club president represent SWAT in the 2015 Lake Placid High School Homecoming Parade and the 2015 Avon Park High School Homecoming Parade! Signs were made and hung on the side of their flashy vehicles, which brought SWAT lots of attention. This is the first year that SWAT has had a representative in the homecoming parades in many years and the clubs now plan to do this every year! Read More

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Tobacco Free Partnership Sponsors Drug Free Highlands Red Carpet Event
November 14 , 2015

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County sponsored Drug Free Highlands’ annual Red Carpet Event on November 14, 2015. This was the second annual event, which boasted many of the children and families in Highlands County. The classic movie Lion King was shown at the authentic Circle Theater in downtown Sebring, and there were lights, glitz and glam! It was a genuine red carpet experience, complete with red carpet, paparazzi style photography, and children and parents dressed to the nines.

This is the second time The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County sponsored this event, and definitely will not be the last. “This family friendly event is a perfect addition to Highlands County community-wide events, it does a great job at attracting community members, it brings a sense of family togetherness, and is such a positive experience for families. The mission and vision aligns perfectly with that of the Tobacco Free Partnership and we are so proud to sponsor an event that is not only about family, but also about a safe, drug and tobacco free environment for everyone,” said Amanda John, Community Health Advocate with QuitDoc Foundation. “We are able to reach hundreds of people with our message through this event, and we will do whatever it takes to promote a tobacco free lifestyle and sponsoring this event in the future is definitely on that list!” Read More

Red Carpet Event

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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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Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program is Off to an Early Start This School Year!
September 9, 2015

After a quiet summer season, the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter in Highlands County is kicking off quarter one with a BIG start!

Though the summer months seem slightly slower since school is out, there is still work to be done and this summer that hard work has paid off!  The SWAT Chapter has added an additional 3 High School Clubs to the mix!

SWAT Recruitment

Last year the SWAT Chapter had very active clubs at Avon Park Middle School, Hill Gustat Middle School, Lake Placid Middle School, and Sebring Middle School and while the clubs were very active, we knew we needed more! We are so very excited to announce that Avon Park High School, Lake Placid High School and Sebring High School will all be starting brand new clubs this quarter! Read More

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Highlands County’s Tobacco Prevention Program Identifies New Goal Areas
September 1, 2015

As the 2015-2016 fiscal year begins, the tobacco prevention program in Highlands County has identified their new goal areas to promote tobacco free social norms in the community.

QuitDoc Foundation was awarded a grant in 2012 by the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida to provide tobacco prevention programs in Highlands County.  For the past 4 years, these programs have included youth prevention, such as the Highlands County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter, tobacco free workplaces, smoke-free multi-unit housing, and measures to counteract marketing of candy flavored tobacco products and retail advertising.  QuitDoc Foundation also facilitates the Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County, which includes partners and stakeholders in the community.

This year marks the beginning of a new fiscal year and new areas of focus for the tobacco free program.  The program has partnered with Counter Tools, a non-profit provider of proprietary software tools, training, and technical assistance to facilitate policy changes affecting tobacco marketing in the retail environment.  This partnership will allow Highlands County to become better trained in the point of sale area. 

The Highlands County program will also focus on tobacco free worksites, growing on previous successes, and potentially securing several more.  Assistance will also be provided to housing properties with connected units, such as apartment complexes and retirement homes, in efforts to go tobacco free.

Leukoplakia

Another new area of focus this year is smokeless tobacco, including smokeless use at public places, events, and youth sports leagues.  The goal is to reduce youth use of smokeless tobacco throughout Highlands County, a leading cause of oral cancers, gum disease, and tooth decay... 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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The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County Wraps Up Another Successful Year!
June 10 , 2015

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County held its final meeting for the fiscal year in May and has so much to look forward to with the new fiscal year right around the corner. 

The Partnership currently has 17 members and meets once per quarter, however, that will soon be changing.  Partnership members have decided to add additional meetings to the calendar and meet every month, rather than quarterly. “I think this will benefit the partnership in many ways,” says Amanda John, Tobacco Prevention Specialist. "Not only will it increase exposure in the community, but it will also increase participation and membership, something the Partnership needs more of!” This new schedule will begin in August with the meetings being the second Wednesday of every month.

During the past year the Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County has been very busy promoting tobacco-free initiatives in the community. There have been numerous presentations to various organizations on Point of Sale Advertising, Flavored Tobacco, the K-12 Tobacco Control Model, Smoke Free Multi Unit Housing and Employee Cessation. Read More
Tobacco Free Florida

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Highlands County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Celebrate World No Tobacco Day
May 31, 2015

The Highlands County SWAT Chapter has done an outstanding job this quarter, and is ending this school year with a bang by celebrating World No Tobacco Day.

The SWAT Clubs at Avon Park Middle School, Hill Gustat Middle School, Lake Placid Middle School, and Avon Park Middle School made posters to hang in the cafeteria and other high traffic areas in the schools. They also took pictures in front of them and posted them to their social media accounts with their own clever World No Tobacco Day hashtags. The students were excited about this because it caused quite the buzz with students all over campus the following day, and gave SWAT members the opportunity to promote SWAT and bring attention to the purpose of World No Tobacco Day.

Unwrap the Truth

“I love seeing the students get so pumped about raising awareness to their peers. We are so lucky in Highlands County to have some of the most positive and inspirational students around and the SWAT Chapter is stronger because of it,” said Amanda John, Tobacco Prevention Specialist in Highlands County. “ I am sad to see this year come to an end, but looking forward to learning new things over the summer to make the Highlands County SWAT Chapter even stronger in the Fall! 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 in Highlands County Celebrate Through With Chew Week
February 21, 2015

Through with Chew Week is an annual effort to call attention to the use of smokeless tobacco products. This public awareness campaign is designed to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco among young people.

The Highlands County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter participated in Through with Chew Week this year in a very creative and entertaining way! Each middle school club created their own scripts, then starred and filmed their own skits depicting the harmful ingredients and dangers of using smokeless tobacco.

SWAT
Amanda John (far right) and SWAT Students at HGMS that were a part of th
e writing and filming of the Through with Chew Skit.

Each club had a blender, beef jerky, sprite, water, brown sugar and gray cake decorating balls that were blended together to call attention to the harmful ingredients in spit tobacco. Beef jerky symbolized tobacco, sprite symbolized benzene, water symbolized formaldehyde, brown sugar symbolized arsenic and the gray cake decorating balls were lead... Read More

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QuitDoc Awarded Tobacco Prevention Grant for Highlands 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 Highlands 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.”
Read More

2014 FYTS Youth Rates

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Tobacco Free Partnership Sponsors Drug Free Highlands Annual Big Night Out to Promote Prevention Issues
December 5, 2014

Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County has continued their excellent partnership with Drug Free Highlands (DFH) for the past few years. The DFH Director and Chairman play an active role in the Partnership, the groups host a dual PAC (Positive Action Club) and SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) club, and also support community wide events that the Partnership and DFH host.

This quarter the Tobacco Free Partnership had the opportunity to sponsor Drug Free Highlands first annual Big Night Out red carpet event that was held during Week of the Family. Hosted at the Circle Theater, this event was a great opportunity for families to get dressed up in semi-formal wear and have a unique red carpet experience in Highlands County that promoted family togetherness and fun! The Circle Theater was all decked out with decorations and its feature presentation was the popular 80’s movie, Big. Families enjoyed refreshments, the show and their quality time spent together. For a first annual event it turned out very well and Drug Free Highlands anticipates hosting this event next year as well. “Promoting positive family traditions and communication was at the center of this event,” says Aisha Alayande, Director of Drug Free Highlands. “We wanted to stress how strengthening families encourages youth to make healthy decisions.” Read More

Drug Free Highlands
Left to right; Larry Moore, Monica O’Neil, Jackie Rawlings, Wendy Amos, Aisha Alayande
Pictured here are a few of the masterminds behind the creation of Drug Free Highlands’ first annual Big Night Out.

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Valentine Pool Service Celebrates the Great American Smoke Out by Creating a Tobacco Free Workplace
November 21, 2014

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County has been increasingly busy this quarter with employer cessation activities. Between one employer going 100% Tobacco Free and the Great American Smoke Out, this quarter has seen much success!

On November 6, 2014, Community Health Advocate, Amanda John, met with Denise Valentine at Valentine Pool Service and conducted an ECC Employer Interview to access their employee cessation benefits.  This is a very small employer, with 8 employees, and of those 4 employees smoke. Valentine expressed her concern with smoking because she was a previous smoker and after several cessation attempts was finally able to quit.

Since she started the business Valentine has allowed smoking in company vehicles, on customer property and outside the office and admitted that it has been hard to take that away after allowing it for so long. However, during the meeting was convinced this is what she needed to do. Valentine decided that as of December 1, 2014, employees will no longer be able to smoke while on the job, nor will they be provided smoke breaks. Valentine states, “My employees may not be very happy with me at first, but I hope this change will spark their interest and push them towards a healthier lifestyle... Read More

Great AMerican Smoke Out

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Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) in Highlands County are Back in Action at the Start of the 2014-2015 School Year
September 15, 2014

The Highlands County SWAT Chapter has another busy year ahead! Between the celebration of smoke free holidays, community events and school wide events each club is sure to capture the attention of others and continue to spread the anti-tobacco message.

At the conclusion of the last school year, the SWAT Chapter had about 70 members and 6 different clubs. There were several very successful recruitment activities and as a result, the clubs have had several new members join the pack this quarter already.

The Lake Placid High School Club SWAT Club and the Sebring High School SWAT Club are seeking advisors this year and are actively on the hunt. The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County is also on the look-out for those who may be interested... Read More

SWAT

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CVS Health Promotes Tobacco Cessation as the Pharmacy Chain Stops Selling Tobacco
September 3, 2014

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County is gearing up for their event at CVS to thank them for their recent choice to remove tobacco products from their shelves.

The partnership had originally scheduled this event for October 1st, which was the original date CVS stated they would stop selling tobacco products. However, CVS pulled tobacco products a month early and as of September 3, 2014, no longer carries any type of tobacco product. The SWAT Students and Partnership members plan on taking thank you letters and signage to all local CVS stores in Highlands County.

CVS Quits for Good

A representative of The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County contacted CVS in Sebring to make sure their tobacco products were already gone and to get an idea of their thoughts on this big step that CVS has taken.  She was met with excitement and received a confirmation that all local CVS no longer had any tobacco products. 

“We have gotten a lot of compliments and many people are so very happy about it,” said Debbie, CVS Store Associate. “We’ve been tobacco free since September 3rd.”  Debbie also admitted that there have been several people that had no idea CVS had made this choice and were upset, even though it has been all over the news for some time now... Read More

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Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Clubs Wrap Up the School Year with Several Activities
June 1 , 2014

The last few months have been very exciting for the Highlands County SWAT Chapter! There was a new club formed, two very successful recruitment activities, and the celebration of World No Tobacco Day! It can’t get much better than that!

Lake Placid High School (LPHS) became the newest SWAT Club in Highlands County and is under the direction of Ms. Jill Scott, teacher at the school. Ms. Scott has an excellent relationship with students and staff at LPHS and was able to recruitment several members to kick off the club.  The club held a recruitment activity on May 19th, in conjunction with the 9th grade orientation night, and met numerous incoming freshman that are eager to become a part of SWAT.

“I am thrilled that I’ve been given the opportunity to be the advisor for SWAT,” said Jill Scott. “I just know that you will see great things from this club in the future!”

Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Amanda John, was also so happy to welcome Ms. Scott as the new SWAT Advisor at Lake Placid High School. “After the first meeting with Jill, I knew she was going to take the SWAT Club at LPHS in the right direction,” said Amanda... Read More

APMS SWAT
Avon Park Middle School Students prepare for World No Tobacco Day
Left to Right:  Ashley Paoli, Aiden Porter, Tally Aquirrey (APMS Students)

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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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Fair Haven Villages Adopts a Smoke-Free Policy for Staff and Residents
May 15 , 2014

Recently, The Tobacco Partnership of Highlands County collaborated diligently with multi-unit housing property, Fair Havens Villages, to successfully implement a smoke-free policy.

Fair Haven had talked about making the change for quite some time, but never acted upon it. The support that the Partnership provided Fair Havens Villages might have been just the motivation that they needed!

"I'm glad our property is going smoke free because I can't stand cigarette smoke, and for health issues for employees and residents," Said Katherine Wyse, Resident Service Coordinator of Fair Havens Village, the most recent property to go smoke free in Highlands County... Read More

Fair Haven

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Highlands Teens Tell Big Tobacco:
We are Not “Replacements”

March 29, 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, Highlands’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Clubs throughout Florida spoke up and took action to let Big Tobacco know they will be not replacements. Kick Butts Day, which this year was celebrated on March 19, is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids national day of activism that empowers youth to fight back against Big Tobacco

Highlands Kick Butts Day

Highlands SWAT clubs were out on Spring Break for Kick Butts day, but celebrated on Saturday, March 29th at the Lakeshore Mall. Students met at 11am with “Not a Replacement Signs,” and held them up in the food court. Students were surprised at how many people stopped to ask them what their signs meant!  An example of one sign read, “I am NOT a Replacement, I am a High School Football Star!”

“This selfie statement is something fun and creative for the students to do, but is also a great way to raise awareness and have other students stop and ask questions like, ‘what does that mean?’” said Amanda John, Tobacco Prevention Specialist in Highlands County... Read More

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Students Working Against Tobacco Clubs Start Off the New Year with a Bang!
March 1, 2014

Between electing officials, Threw with Chew Week and the Highlands County Fair, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) in Highlands County have been making great strides towards bettering their community since the start of the New Year!

“Christmas Break must have given the SWAT Students plenty of rest because they came back ripping and rearing to go,” Said Amanda John, Tobacco Prevention Specialist in Highlands County.

Highlands County’s only community based club, Str8UP SWAT Club, came back from Christmas break with big plans. But first they needed to distinguish a little leadership within their group. There were 4 official positions that the club determined was important; President, Vice President, Secretary and also the newly created title of Social Media Specialist, in charge of taking photos at all meetings and events. After much deliberation, Syndey Wells was elected President, Tete Goldsmith was elected Vice President, Kaylesha Legree was elected Secretary and Isabela Retamoza was elected Social Media Specialist. “With this group of leaders, this club is sure to ROCK,” said Mrs. John... Read More

STR8 UP SWAT Officers
STR8 UP SWAT Officers, From L to R: Vice President Tete Goldsmith; Secretary Kaylesha Legree;
President Syndey Wells; Social Media Specialist Isabela Retamoza

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Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County Celebrates the Great American Smoke Out on Local School Campuses
November 21 , 2013

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County, part of the statewide Tobacco Free Florida program, had a message for tobacco users during this year’s Great American Smoke Out: There is a Quitter In You!

The purpose of the annual Great American Smoke Out, observed this year on Thursday, Nov 21st, was to set aside a day for smokers to find their inner “quitter”. This observance is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is designed to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and the many effective resources available to successfully quit.

“The most important step a smoker can take for a healthier and longer life is to quit smoking,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “We urge Floridians to take advantage of our resources, and what better time to do so than during the Great American Smoke out. The American Cancer Society has been an invaluable partner in our efforts to help smokers quit.” Read More

GASO Postcard

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STR8 UP Youth Ministry Partners with the Tobacco Free Partnership of HIghlands County to Create a Faith-Based SWAT Club in Lake Placid
November 15 , 2013

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County was happy to welcome its first ever community-based SWAT club this quarter.

STR8 UP Youth Ministry is a non-denominational faith- based community youth center. It is the vision of Sammy and Dana Telesco, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The STR8 UP Youth House is a safe place for middle and high school age young people to come and learn about Jesus, get academic help, and enjoy athletics and much more, all under the guidance of mentors and tutors.

On November 15th, Dr. Barry Hummel and Amanda John hosted a recruitment event at STR8 UP in Lake Placid. Dr. Hummel did a presentation to over 40 kids and obviously made a huge impression because over 16 kids signed up for SWAT... Read More

STR8 UP

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Amanda John joins the Quit Doc team as the
Tobacco Prevention Specialist in Highlands County
September 23, 2013

Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation is proud to announce Amanda (Sherley) John as the new Tobacco Prevention Specialist for Highlands County.

Amanda is a 28 year Highlands County resident with great ties to her local community. Amanda has been involved in Drug Free Highlands, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Alliance, Healthy Start, Leadership Highlands.  She has also served as an Ambassador for the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce.

Amanda John

As an alumnus of the University of Florida, Amanda is a Florida Gator at heart! Amanda graduated from UF in 2008, where she earned her Bachelor degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism with Specialization in Event Management. After trying her hand at a few different career options, she found her true passion in the field of substance abuse prevention, working for her local Drug Free coalition as the Project Coordinator... Read More
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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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Highlands County Board of County Commissioners Adopts a Resolution Asking Retailers to Stop the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products that Target Youth.
June 18, 2013

On June 18, 2013, the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed a Resolution encouraging local retailers to voluntarily halt the sale of flavored tobacco products targeting youth.

The resolution was brought forward by the Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County to draw attention to the growing problem of flavored tobacco products that are not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  While the FDA banned the sale of flavored cigarettes in September 2009, flavored cigars, spit tobacco, and electronic cigarettes have exploded in the marketplace.  The FDA has been granted the authority to regulate these products under The Family Tobacco Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (2009), they have yet to exercise that authority over the growing list of flavored products... Read More

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Quit Doc’s Dr. Barry Hummel speaks to the Lake Placid Rotary Club about the Tobacco Free Partnership and Employer Cessation Benefits
May 16, 2013

Dr. Barry Hummel, Co-Founder and Communications Director of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, addressed the Lake Placid Rotary Club on tobacco prevention issues at their weekly meeting on May 16, 2013.

Dr. Hummel shared information on the work of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County, and the goal of the coalition to reduce youth tobacco use locally.  “You may not think of it this way, but tobacco use is a Pediatric epidemic,” Dr. Hummel told the group.  “85% of new tobacco users start between the ages of 12 and 17, before it is even legal for them to purchase tobacco.”

Dr. Hummel explained that this leads to roughly 440,000 deaths each year as a result of tobacco use.  “These are adults that are dying, which is why we don’t think of it as a Pediatric problem,” added Dr. Hummel.  “The reality is that we need to do more to protect our children.” Read More

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SWAT Students from North Florida and Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation Produce a Short Film on the Issue of Flavored Tobacco Products that Target Youth
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.

The Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation helped produce the film, setting up a temporary studio at their office in Ocala, Florida. The staff converted a spare office by suspending a simple blue screen from the ceiling. "It is the same technique used by your local weatherman," said Dr. Barry Hummel, who directed the film. "It allows us to put graphic information behind the students during the editing process to reinforce each point they are trying to make."

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 the make-shift studio... Read More

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Sandblast at the Beach: Students Working Against Tobacco Host Their Annual Event!
April 14, 2013

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and Pinellas County hosted the annual Sandblast event “Treasure Island” on St. Petersburg Municipal Beach on April 14th, 2013.  The purpose of this event was to coordinate youth advocacy efforts with 15 SWAT county chapters of SWAT with the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida.  Two of Highlands County’s SWAT members, Tatiana Matos and Iesha Spencer, attended the event this year.

The students created and manned a Pledge Booth, where participants attending the event drew outlines of their hands and pledged not to use tobacco products by writing five reasons inside the outline.  Amongst brightly colored tents and large blow up slides, the Gulf of Mexico and the stretch of sandy white beaches provided a perfect backdrop for SWAT students as they educated over 400 middle school-aged youth with anti-tobacco messages... Read More

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Local Students Working Against Tobacco Clubs Educate Community About Flavored Tobacco at Highlands County Fair
by Tatiana Matos, Sebring High School SWAT President
March, 2013

Winter Green, Twista Chill, Orange, Berry Berry. These names sound like some of your favorite sweet treats, right? Actually, they’re the names of some of the more popular candy flavored tobacco products, flavors that youth and young adults here in Highlands County are finding more and more attractive.

This year Students Working Against Tobacco Clubs (SWAT) participated in the Highlands County Fair. “Our theme was Candy Flavored Tobacco because we wanted to educate the public, especially the youth and young adults, on the different forms of flavored tobacco products on the market,” said Tatiana Matos, President of the Sebring High School SWAT Club.” She went on to say that, “Big Tobacco companies manufacture these products and target our young people with products like cigars, cigarillos, chew, and spit tobacco products and they treat them with fruit flavors to mask the naturally harsh taste of the tobacco.” Read More

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City of Avon Park Passes a Resolution Encouraging Retailers to Voluntarily Restrict the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products
February 25, 2013

By a 3-1 vote, the Avon Park City Council passed a Resolution encouraging local retailers to restrict the sale of fruit and candy-flavored tobacco products not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Adminstration. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Councilman Garrett Anderson.

The vote immediately followed a presentation by Dr. Barry Hummel, Co-Founder of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, the fiscal agent of The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County... Read More

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Is There a Quitter in You?
The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County and Alan Jay Automotive Network Commemorate the Great American Smokeout.

Sebring, Fla. - The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County, part of the statewide Tobacco Free Florida program, had a message for tobacco users during this year’s Great American Smokeout: There is a Quitter In You!

The purpose of the annual Great American Smokeout, observed this year on Thursday, Nov. 15, is to set aside a day for smokers to find their inner “quitter”. This observance, currently in its 37th year, is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.  The event is designed to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and the many effective resources available to successfully quit... Read More

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Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation Awarded Tobacco Prevention Grant for Highlands 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 Highlands 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