News and Events

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.”

SWAT Highlands County Fair Booth

Those visiting the SWAT Club’s Deadly Treats themed interactive booth, were able to walk through the U-shaped booth and get a firsthand look at some of the candy flavored tobacco products that were on display and compare them to similarly packaged candy products. There was a bright orange tin of Orange flavored Skoal that bore an eerie resemblance to the orange roll. Or the dark package of Copenhagen that was the same color as the round tin of Winter Green Altoids.

Camel Snus Camel 9

Visitors were also educated by SWAT club members from Sebring High on the devastating consequences of using flavored tobacco products like Snus, which is also packaged to look like the oval shaped tins of Altoids, as well. Snus is a 1 inch packet that resembles a tiny tea bag. Students explained that the Snus packets are actually riddled with shards of fiberglass that are designed to puncture the gums and inner lip, thereby delivering the nicotine directly into the bloodstream and gets it into your body a lot faster than cigarettes will. The SWAT students also informed visitors that Snus has become very popular in the schools because it is virtually impossible to detect. “Big Tobacco companies have lowered the pH balance in this tobacco product which enables students to swallow the ‘juice’ instead of having to spit,” explained Patrice Ayala, the Tobacco Prevention Specialist for Highlands County.

One of the three tables was covered with pamphlets covering topics such as, Talking to Your Child About Tobacco, Strange Candy, and Why Tobacco Companies Want You to Smoke. There was also information on The Florida Quit Line and other free cessation programs that are available in the county, as well.

While the adults were being educated, there was an interactive education station for the younger ones, too. Several parents with kids stopped at the booth and the kids were able to learn about diseases that you can get from using spit or chewing tobacco. The Mr. Gross Mouth and Mr. Smokers Mouth table displays, showed a wide range of diseases and other affects both smokeless tobacco products and cigarettes can have on the mouth. Diseases such as cancerous growths on the gums, tongue and roof of your mouth and a hairy tongue due to nicotine build up. But the most popular attraction was Lou Wheeze, a pressed board cutout of a very pretty lady with piercing blue eyes. She has an inflatable healthy lung and a smoking diseased lung. The kids really got a kick out of comparing how the two lungs functioned totally differently when air was pushed into them by a hand pump.


We had many people stop at our booth from kids to elders to adults and even carnies wanting to know more about what we do. The SWAT youth and tobacco prevention specialist were able to answer many questions about SWAT’s mission and that of the Tobacco-Free Partnership of Highlands County. 

The success of the SWAT/Tobacco Prevention fair booth was in the number of referrals we were able to make to the Florida QuitLine and Area Health Educations Center’s Quit Smoking Now tobacco cessation classes. Overall, the theme of the booth allowed us to deliver our message to everyone that came to our stopped or passed by. That message was to de-glamorize Big Tobacco companies and expose Candy Flavored Tobacco as a dangerous and deadly poison.