News and Events

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.

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.

“Tobacco use is the single biggest public health problem in the United States,” reports Dr. Barry Hummel, a Pediatrician who co-founded the non-profit foundation.  “We lose over 400,000 people every year to diseases caused by tobacco.  Sadly, they are replaced by over one million children and teenagers who are lured into smoking by the predatory marketing practices of the Tobacco Industry.”

Several of the educational programs provided by the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation are designed to point out to children and teens exactly how the Tobacco Industry targets America’s youth.  “Each of our programs focuses on a different, age-appropriate issue,” says Dr. Hummel.  “For elementary school children, we show the health risks of tobacco use.  In middle school classrooms, we discuss the issue of tobacco advertising and marketing, especially in local convenience stores, and how the false promises found in those ads entice teenagers to try tobacco.  For high school students, we discuss the impact of onscreen tobacco use in movies and television shows and the impact that such glamorization has on teen smoking.”

In Highlands County, the programs will be managed by Patrice Ayala, the county’s new Tobacco Prevention Specialist.  She will also be responsible for facilitating the Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County.  The Partnership is a coalition of community leaders that will be working together on tobacco issues that affect the residents of Highlands County, particularly its most vulnerable residents: youth and senior citizens.

The Partnership will be working on several initiatives to reduce youth access to tobacco products, to reduce illnesses and exposure to secondhand smoke, and to promote tobacco cessation services throughout the county.

There will also be an active youth program to work on these same issues.  The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program has been an active part of tobacco control in Florida since the original settlement.  Florida’s SWAT Program has been a model for other states, and remains a very effective youth prevention program.

All programs are provided free-of-charge to participating schools or organizations.  Interested groups or individuals can obtain more information, or schedule a program, by calling 863-402-1477. Patrice Ayala can be reached directly at  Additional information is also available at