When you say the word “SWAT” most people think of a specialized law enforcement unit equipped with weapons and devices to deal with situations such as hostage rescue, riot control and heavily armed criminals. These men and women from law enforcement volunteer for this duty and are specially trained.
Here in Florida, we also have SWAT units throughout our state. While law enforcement, tactical SWAT units protect our citizens, our SWAT kids, Students Working Against Tobacco, are a volunteer group of girls and boys within their schools. These students are educated and empowered to “de-glamorize Big Tobacco.”
The SWAT Program was born out of the historic tobacco settlement between the tobacco industry and the State of Florida. The first SWAT group was established in Florida in 1998 and since then students have come together to “fight against the tobacco industry and its manipulation and targeting of youth to use their product.”
The goals of SWAT members are simple: prevent and reduce tobacco use among youth, and protect youth from secondhand smoke.” The numbers don’t lie about the effectiveness of the SWAT program. Since 1998, middle school students who have ever tried cigarettes has decreased 58.7%. High schools have seen a 44.3% decrease.
SWAT members also educate community, county and state policy makers regarding current tobacco issues. Changing social norms about tobacco will help to decrease its use. In 2009 the Santa Rosa SWAT did just that by going before “their county commissioners to pass a resolution banning candy flavored tobacco.”
These SWAT members are trying to “mobilize a generation of youth to reject tobacco addiction.” Let’s give them all the help they need.
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