News and Events

Bradford County "SWAT" Youth Take Aim at Tobacco Industry’s Smoke-in-Mirrors Tactics
July 16, 2013

ORANGE PARK -- Several youth from Bradford County High School have taken the initiative to actively engage their local state senator, Rob Bradley, in a David and Goliath battle of biblical proportions. 

The tobacco industry spends over $500 MILLION every year in Florida on advertising alone – that’s over half a BILLION dollars.  Bradford County’s SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) program have limited resources yet time and truth on their side in combating industry influence in their community and now even throughout the state.

This past legislative session freshman Sen. Rob Bradley sponsored a bill - SB 258 - that would restore local control to cities and counties who have been restricted by the state in establishing their own smoke-free parks, playgrounds, and other recreational outdoor areas.  The same law that restricts smoking indoors, the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, ironically does not allow local communities to decide what’s best for their outdoor public areas even though the law has the word “indoor” in its title.  Local communities have the power to decide where and what venue one can or cannot consume alcoholic beverages however they do not share the same right to designate a park or playground to be a breathe easy zone or have a smoke-free area.   This seems counterintuitive as tobacco kills more people than alcohol and many other things combined yet still holds more social norm than other substances.

Sen Bradley with Bradford SWAT
From L to R: Shelby Wilkison, Mackenzie Gault, Senator Rob Bradley and McKenzie Dougherty

SWAT youth leaders Shelby Wilkison, Mackenzie Gault, and McKenzie Dougherty presented Sen. Bradley with a special plaque thanking him for his efforts and encouraged him to continue his effort to push a new bill forward in the next legislative session.  Government seems best when closest to the people and this is one measure that benefits not only health but also litter control.  The tobacco industry would rather have this fight in Tallahassee as it is easier to win there in one place than in putting resources in various communities who seek to establish their own rightful policy changes.   

While local control and children’s exposure of secondhand smoke is at the heart of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, another issue with Big Tobacco is smoldering.   The issue is e-cigarettes which are electronic nicotine-delivery devices, unapproved by FDA and considered tobacco by the federal government. 

Originally these products were marketed as smoking cessation alternatives; however with new packaging and flavors they are evolving more into youth initiation devices.  The state of Florida does not have anything in statute on e-cigarettes and since the FDA has not taken action since their inception, states and local governments should be encouraged to pass fair legislation restricting their access to youth along with where they can be used in public settings such as schools and workplaces. 

Neighboring Clay County recently passed the first comprehensive ordinance which restricts their placement in stores, their use in the workplace, and their sales to minors. 

Bradford SWAT encouraged Sen. Bradley to also consider reasonable legislation that would also address this issue at the state level as well.  No one knows when the FDA may act, so in the meantime it is incumbent upon state and local governments to effectively act in protecting youth. 

A tobacco industry representative recently noted that e-cigarettes are the new “wave” in the history of tobacco.  Our youth who they target and have been knowingly targeting for decades are the front-lines in the battle against this new industry ploy. 

For more information on Bradford County SWAT please contact: