News and Events

Gilchrist County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members Have a Busy Autumn!
December 7, 2018

This has been a busy quarter for Gilchrist County SWAT.  At the beginning of November, two SWAT youth from Trenton and Bell participated in a regional training event that brought youth together from North East Florida to discuss many tobacco issues such as e-cigarettes and youth tobacco use, as well as learning important skills like public speaking.  SWAT youth also learned some of the key aspects of advocacy such as learning how to educate and speak with knowledge on tobacco topics that impact themselves and their peers in the community. The regional event was held to help SWAT youth connect with other SWAT clubs around the state and bring back the latest information and ideas to Gilchrist County. 

Bell SWAT club participated in Red Ribbon Week by promoting tobacco-free norms and promoting Not a Lab Rat Day. This is a new observance where SWAT youth advocate for themselves to not be used by e-cigarette companies as test subjects for the new products. Trenton SWAT worked on viral marketing by doing a SWAT rock painting activity to hide tobacco-free messages on rocks around Gilchrist County. Another way SWAT wants to reach the community is through projects like photovoice which allows youth to take pictures in the community to share their perspective with community leaders and other adults. Read More


Local Tobacco Free Partnership Promotes Tobacco Free Workplaces During Annual Great American Smokeout
November 15, 2018

The Gilchrist Tobacco Free Partnership and encouraged local employers to recognize the Great American Smoke Out (GASO) at their workplaces this year. Palms Medical offices in Trenton, Gilchrist County, and Best Drugs all participated in the observance this year. Each employer gave out palm cards with information on the cost of smoking, and how much money tobacco users would save if they kicked the habit. Cessation information was also provided as part of the Great American Smoke Out observance in Gilchrist County.

The Great American Smoke Out is a national day created by the American Cancer Society to encourage people to quit smoking.  Tobacco use is the number one cause of premature death in the United States, killing approximately 500,000 people each year.  This number includes about 10% of people who are not smokers themselves, but are people who live with smokers and are harmed by inhaling secondhand smoke.

Every year Tobacco Free Florida works with organizations in all 67 Florida counties to promote tobacco cessation during the week of GASO.  Smokers who quit receive immediate benefits, and over the long-term can drastically reduce their chance of cancer and heart disease to almost the same levels as if they had never smoked.  That is good news for anyone who wants to break the habit and rid themselves of nicotine addiction. Read More


Students Working Against Tobacco Will be Telling the Vaping Industry that They are "Not a Lab Rats"!
September 20, 2018

Students Working Against Tobacco clubs are established to give young people in Gilchrist County the opportunity to speak out in the community to let people know the ways in which tobacco companies target them and their friends to become replacement customers for the 430,000 people who die from tobacco related illness each year.  SWAT youth take this message seriously since approximately 90% of all smokers report that they started smoking before the age of 18.  These youth are dedicated to educating and advocating for policies that will help other youth stay tobacco-free for life.

Gilchrist County SWAT youth are active this year to educate the community about the issue of e-cigarette use among youth. In Gilchrist County, 19.3% of all young people (11-17 yrs.) are regular users of e-cigarettes. Even more shocking is that 30.5% of all students ages 11-17 have ever tried an e-cigarette according to the latest Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. The FDA has recently called e-cigarette use among young people “an epidemic.” Gilchrist SWAT members have been working since the beginning of the school year to have outreach events to try to stop this epidemic of young people who are becoming addicted to nicotine through non-traditional tobacco products. Their message this school year is: Not a Lab Rat, which means that they don’t want their generation to be the ones who find out what kinds of harms might come to them from using e-cigarettes the way past generations have with traditional cigarettes. Read More


Point-of-Sale Tobacco Advertising Increases the Risk of Youth Tobacco Use
By Tracy DeCubellis
September 6, 2018

The new school year is just starting for 2018-2019. It is a busy and exciting time as students move up to the next grade level, or start school for the first time. Busses, minivans, and groups of students walking together all converge upon the schools with great energy and excitement about what potential this new school year has in store.

As the busses, minivans, and groups of students make their way to the school, however, they are all passing tobacco advertisements at local retailers. They see advertisements with price promotions, or maybe even new electronic smoking gadgets like e-cigarettes or vapes. So, while they are going to school to learn lifelong lessons that will serve them into adulthood, are they also being influenced on the way to and from school to pick up a habit that will last them into adulthood?

If there is one thing we’ve learned from tobacco company internal memos it is that they have their eyes on our youth as their next group of customers. When Congress gained access to internal tobacco company memos, we found out for sure that added flavors like cherry and honey, colors, and even branding were all geared to attract the attention of kids.

An organization started by the University of North Carolina called Counter Tobacco explains what is happening at gas stations and convenience stores where tobacco is being sold. They explain that tobacco companies are spending $1,000,000 per day in advertising at local retail shops. That means tobacco companies are using ads to build relationships with potential customers. Those potential customers are our kids. Read More


E-Cigarettes:  Lies, Myths, and the Research (Part 2)
By Tracy DeCubellis
June 8, 2018

In our last article in the e-cigarette series, the chemicals in e-cigarette emissions were discussed. Now that we have evidence that nicotine and other chemicals are present in e-cigarette aerosol emissions, it’s time to focus attention on a specific ingredient in e-cigarette liquid – flavorings.

When e-cigarettes first came on the scene, it didn’t take long to see that highly flavored liquids were a main ingredient in the e-juice that is turned into the aerosol that users inhale and then exhale into the environment. There are so many flavors available through hundreds of different manufacturers and retailers. It is hard to know how many flavors there really are. One study estimates more than 8,000 different flavors are sold in the United States (Kaur, Muthumalage & Rahman, 2018). Since 2009 it has been illegal for these flavorings to be added to traditional cigarettes, but they are still available in e-cigarettes.

There was concern when e-cigarettes first came out about so many flavored e-cigarettes available because they would be attractive to kids. E-cigarette advocates often tried to refute that objection with the statement that adults like flavors, also.

Do youth start using e-cigarettes because of the flavors that are available?
According to recent research, the answer may be “yes”. In fact, among Texas youth (ages 12-17), 72.9% of those who use e-cigarettes said they started using them because “They come in flavors I like” (Harrell et al., 2017). Among youth (ages 12-17) who are current e-cigarette users, 98.6% said they used flavored e-cigarettes the first time they tried them (Harrell et al., 2017). Among adults nationwide (age 30+) who were surveyed, just 44.1% said they used e-cigarettes in a flavor other than tobacco-flavor the first time they tried them (Harrell et al., 2017).

What is the FDA doing about flavored e-cigarettes now?
In May of 2018, the FDA and the FTC issued warning letters to 13 different manufacturers or distributors because they were marketing their e-cigarette liquids to look like food or candy. In a press release on May 1, 2018, the FDA said, “No child should be using any tobacco product, and no tobacco products should be marketed in a way that endangers kids – especially by using imagery that misleads them into thinking the products are things they’d eat or drink” (U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2018). Read More


Gilchrist County Celebrates the 10th Annual Tobacco Free Florida Week!
April 8, 2018

The week of April 2nd-8th was the 10th annual Tobacco Free Florida Week. It was during this week that Tobacco Free Florida reached out to Floridians to encourage them to be tobacco free. Several locations around the community participated in Tobacco Free Florida Week outreach including the Trenton Library, Best Drugs and Palms Medical Offices in Trenton. Each of these locations posted information about Tobacco Free Florida Week which included information about how to quit for free.

The goal was to get information out to the community to encourage living a tobacco free lifestyle, as well as educating people who may not have been reached in previous campaigns. This year, Tobacco Free Florida Week focused on groups of people who are impacted by tobacco use at a higher rate than some other groups. One such group of concern in Gilchrist County would be people living in the lower income groups, especially people who make less than $30,000. The reason is that they are more likely to smoke, and they also tend to suffer more health consequences of smoking compared to people who have higher incomes. Read More


E-Cigarettes:  Lies, Myths, and the Research (Part 1)
By Tracy DeCubellis
March 21, 2018

When e-cigarettes came on the scene a few years ago, it was like the Wild West where few regulations existed and companies could make just about any claim they wanted about the products. Manufacturers essentially mislead the public by declaring them to be safe, non-toxic, and a tobacco cessation device.

It is ironic that early e-cigarettes were promoted as superior way to quit tobacco by the manufacturers, because e-cigarette companies went to Federal court and claimed that they were tobacco products, and not cessation devices. In a later Federal court case, Sottera v U.S. FDA, a judge ruled that e-cigarette products are tobacco and are subject to FDA rules on tobacco. The FDA now has jurisdiction over regulating e-cigarette products. (For more information on FDA regulation of e-cigarettes click here.)

So, let’s address some of the “lies and myths” surrounding e-cigarettes by seeing what researchers have learned.


I heard e-cigarettes are safe, “water vapor”.

The first thing we need to look at is the research showing what is in e-cigarette vapor. Is this just “water vapor” as so many commercials claimed just a few years ago? Based on research, certainly not. In fact, some chemicals found in exhaled e-cigarette vapor include, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOC), polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAC), carbonyls, metals, and nicotine (Schober, et al., 2013). Researchers have also discovered that up to 15 times the amount of formaldehyde is formed as a result of a chemical reaction when e-juice is “vaped” in a higher voltage e-cigarette device compared to regular cigarette smoking (Jenson, et al., 2015). These are the types of e-devices that enable the user to make modifications, and are often used to make large clouds of vapor. Read More


Gilchrist County SWAT 4-H Clubs Highlight Through With Chew Week
February 21, 2018

Members of the three Gilchrist County SWAT 4-H clubs participated in Through With Chew Week activities on Wednesday, February 21st.

At Trenton and Bell High Schools, SWAT club members created a poster campaign by displaying posters with messages like “Skip the Dip”, “Through With Chew”, and “Skip the Dip and Save Your Lips”. These posters were intended to create tobacco-free messaging in the schools, as well as influence social norms of their peers. This is important because in Gilchrist County, 19% of all high school students have tried smokeless tobacco, and 10.5% are current, regular users of smokeless tobacco products according to the 2016 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey results.

Trenton SWAT 4-H members also held an after-school community Through With Chew event at the Trenton Library on February 21st. SWAT members presented information about the health impacts of using smokeless tobacco products, including the oral health side effects. Using a prop call Mr. Gross Mouth, SWAT members could show youth and adults the damage smokeless products can do to the soft tissues in the mouth, as well as gum, tooth, and bone loss. One of the reasons they chose to do this activity was to raise awareness about smokeless tobacco use. Read More


Meet the Leaders of the Gilchrist County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter!
December 7, 2017

We recently sat down and spoke with our chapter SWAT president, Hannah Turner, and our chapter vice president, Daica Putman to discuss Students Working Against Tobacco. Hannah and Daica are our Gilchrist County representatives to our state and regional SWAT meetings, and it is their responsibility to bring the regional and statewide initiatives back to Gilchrist so that they can help end tobacco use.

Hannah Turner

Q: How long have you been a SWAT member, and why did you join?
A: I have been a SWAT member for five years, since I was in 7th grade. I joined because both of my older siblings were involved in SWAT, and also because cigarette smoking is annoying to deal with in public places. Also, family members have already died of cancer and smoking causes cancer.

Q: What are the benefits of being a county representative at regional SWAT meetings?
A: It’s really interesting because I get to see what other people in other counties are doing in their SWAT programs, and I get to share what is happening in my own program. I also get ideas on what we can do in our own county.


From L to R:
Daica Putman and Hannah Turner


Q: What ideas or activities have you learned at a regional SWAT meeting that you would like to bring back to Gilchrist County?
A: The coolest activity was a team building activity that had us really rely on others. We had to help our team make our way through a course together.

Q: What would you like to accomplish in SWAT by the end of this school year?
A: I would like to recruit more members to keep peers from using tobacco. That way we can reach out to the whole community to keep people from getting cancer. Read More


The Importance of Creating Comprehensive Tobacco-free Worksite Policies
Tracy DeCubellis, M.S.
November 29, 2017

It is no secret that tobacco use is harmful. Despite our knowledge of the multitude of carcinogens and toxins in tobacco, people still use it during work hours. According to the Center for Disease control, tobacco use in the workplace accounts for the most lost worker productivity compared to other causes such as family emergencies or alcohol abuse(1).

Tobacco use and recreational nicotine use via e-cigarettes at work can cost employers money. The loss of productivity for a business with smokers is estimated to cost $4,056 in productivity and $2,056 in medical costs per year(2). Additionally, unless an employer creates a tobacco-free policy for the workplace that includes e-cigarettes and vapor products, employees may be able to use their recreational nicotine devices at work. Some counties and municipalities have laws regulating these products, but Florida does not restrict their use indoors.

Businesses that create tobacco-free campus policies protect the health and wellbeing of employees. This type of campus wide policy may encourage employees who use tobacco to quit the habit, especially if the campus tobacco-free policy includes cessation help for those who currently use tobacco or recreational nicotine products like e-cigarettes. This is important because statewide, of the 15.8% of adults who currently smoke, 64.9% of them have tried to stop in the last year(3). Read More


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

Trenton, Florida – A growing trend finds workplaces making big strides in supporting the health and well-being of their employees by adopting tobacco free workplaces and providing cessation resources to employees who use tobacco.

Locally, a good example in the county would be the Gilchrist County School District, which provides a tobacco free workplace, and supports their employees’ efforts to quit smoking by providing cessation resources to their employees. They are also able to use insurance benefits for cessation support such as nicotine replacement medications and doctor’s visits for support. Additionally, the district has advertised the Quit Your Way program, offered by Tobacco Free Florida, to employees to further encourage the benefits of a tobacco free lifestyle.

The free Quit Your Way program allows employees to call, go online, or even attend face-to-face cessation classes, many of which have been hosted at their places of employment in order to support tobacco cessation efforts. Read More


Big Tobacco Has a Plan to Market Products in Rural Areas
September 7, 2017

It is well known that tobacco companies market heavily in Florida and the United States. In fact, tobacco companies spent over $8 billion dollars marketing cigarettes in 2014 alone. Florida is one of the states where tobacco targets the largest amount of marketing dollars. Cigarettes aren’t the only thing marketed to us, either. Smokeless tobacco companies spent about $600 million dollars in marketing products in 2014.  In addition to the vast quantities of money spent by tobacco companies to advertise their products here on the local level, they study certain “markets”, or groups of people, to figure out what kinds of messages will sell their products.


In rural areas, tobacco companies use a variety of marketing messages. Some of the most popular are using camo, outdoor imagery, or some kind of rugged image such as the Marlboro Man. This is because tobacco companies actually study people in different groups. They want to know what kinds of things appeal to us so they can tailor their advertising toward the target audience.

One of the target groups for tobacco companies is people living in rural areas, especially people who like to hunt, fish, and even farmers. The themes used in tobacco advertisements geared toward rural residents have centered around the idea of being rugged, or tying the act of smoking or dipping as part of the outdoor experience. Tobacco ads from the past reinforced the idea of smoking while hunting, for example, by showing a bird hunter with his German Shorthair Pointer and using terms such as “mild experience”.  Another former cigarette ad shows a sportsman holding a fishing rod while smoking. The words used in the ad included “swagger”, “distinctive” and “alert”. This paints a favorable picture to sportsmen about smoking in connection to fishing. Everyone remembers the Marlboro Man who was used to portray smoking as a strong, rugged activity that would make men appear to be like him.




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Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County Names New Advisory Board for 2017-2018
August 31, 2017

A new slate of Advisory Council members was elected to lead the tobacco prevention outreach of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist at the latest quarterly meeting.

The newest member of the Advisory Council is Susan Gibb. Susan is the School Health Coordinator for the Gilchrist County Health Department. She has been a Registered Nurse for 42 years and has worked in public health, women’s health and pediatrics. smoking and secondhand smoke on both adults and children. The Partnership is pleased to welcome Susan to the Advisory Council and they look forward to working with her to improve the health of community members while working toward tobacco-free social norms.

Lorrie Akin has been a member of the Tobacco Free Partnership for eight years. She has previously served on the Advisory Council and was re-elected to serve again. In addition to her work with the Partnership, she is also a Gilchrist County SWAT Advisor. As a member of the Gilchrist Character Council, Lorrie worked with the group to create a tobacco-free policy at the Loomis Brother’s Circus. The Character Council sponsors this yearly event which remains a tobacco-free event for families to enjoy. This policy not only protects people from secondhand smoke, but it also helps promote tobacco-free norms to youth. Lorrie also feels that it is important to serve on the Partnership so that she can help inform other people about the negative issues regarding tobacco products. Thank you, Lorrie, for your long-term commitment to the Tobacco Free Partnership and for your work in the community. Read More


Tobacco Free Events are Trending Up in Florida
May 30, 2017

Everyone knows there is no smoking allowed in most public buildings in Florida thanks to the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act (FCIAA). This is a great thing for the more than 80% of us to do not smoke or use other forms of tobacco because we are protected from breathing secondhand smoke in places like malls, restaurants, and theaters. Thanks to our FCIAA, our children will never have the experience of having to choose a “smoking” or “non-smoking” area in a restaurant, or be exposed to cigarette smoke in almost any public indoor environment the way that we did when we were children. However, while the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act restricts smoking in most public indoor spaces, it does not allow municipalities or counties to create outdoor clean air policies such as beaches or parks due to a provision in the law called preemption which only allows state lawmakers to create such policies.

Floridians are becoming increasingly tobacco free, as even the youth cigarette smoking rate is lower than most states in the county. As a result of individuals and families wanting tobacco free outdoor entertainment, there is an exciting trend happening at North Central Florida – tobacco free festivals and events.  Event and festival tobacco free policies are completely allowed as the FCIAA only preempts a municipal or county ordinance regarding clean outdoor air. Therefore, many local community festivals and observances are going tobacco free!

One of the first festivals in North Central Florida to go tobacco free was the Cross City Fly-In and Business Expo in Dixie County in 2016.  The Tobacco Free Partnership of Dixie County partnered with the Dixie Chamber of Commerce to create a tobacco free event policy. The Cross City Fly-In and Business Expo is a yearly event that is sponsored by the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of creating a tobacco free festival was to provide those who attended or worked at the event with a safe and healthy environment.  In 2017, the event was not only tobacco free, but e-cigarette use was included in the policy, making this a truly ground breaking festival in protecting the health of the community by eliminating any exposure to tobacco, secondhand smoke or secondhand vapor.  The Dixie County Chamber of Commerce estimates that approximately 3,000 people attended the Fly-In this year, giving it a large impact in the community by supporting tobacco free social norms. Read More


Tobacco Free Florida Week Focuses on "The Cost of Smoking"!
May 12, 2017

Tobacco Free Florida Week was held during the week of May 7th this year. The theme was “The Cost of Smoking.” Most people know that smoking is not healthy. Did you know that smokers die an average of 10 years earlier than nonsmokers? In Florida, 30% of all cancer deaths are due to smoking. Some smokers live with chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or another smoking related illness that reduces the quality of life for those individuals.

Besides the health costs of smoking, many people don’t consider the financial costs of smoking. For a person who smokes one pack of cigarettes per day in Florida, it can cost $2000 per year. Since 90% of smokers first tried using cigarettes by age 18, imagine the lifetime cost of smoking over the years. In just five years, $10,000 will be spent on cigarettes for a pack-a-day smoker. What could you do with $10,000? Tobacco use costs thousands of dollars for families each year. Read More


Youth E-Cigarette Use On the Rise in Florida
By Tracy DeCubellis
March 21, 2017

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are fast becoming a threat to the historically low use of tobacco products among Florida youth.

The e-cigarette was invented in 2004, making it a fairly new product on the market which has just recently come under state and federal regulations. 
For over a decade e-cigarettes and other nicotine vaporizer products were on the market before any substantial regulations were enacted, including the way e-cigarettes were advertised. Florida law officially banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors starting on July 1, 2014 and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initiated deeming regulations in 2016.

However, in the absence of marketing regulations, e-cigarette companies wasted no time following in the footsteps of traditional Big Tobacco, marketing by advertising their products in ways that especially appeal to youth. Flavors and colors were added to attract younger users. Music festivals, concerts and other events were sponsored by e-cigarette companies. Television and radio commercials, which are off-limits for traditional tobacco products, were used to send the message that e-cigarettes provide a cool, hip way for young people to “be free” or be more “adult”.

Apparently, young people were paying attention to these e-cigarette advertising campaigns. The 2016 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) results have been released and the data indicate a substantial increase in the number of young people who use e-cigarettes in our state.  According to the 2016 survey results, 6.4% of middle school students are current e-cigarette users and 18% of high school students are current e-cigarette users.

The first year e-cigarette use was measured by the FYTS was 2012. Between 2012-2016, the percent change in e-cigarette use by middle school student was 300% and the percent change for high school students was 445.5%. The number of young Floridians using e-cigarettes continues to rise each year and the number is now more than three times higher than the number of youth who smoke traditional cigarettes.
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Gilchrist County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Celebrate Kick Butts Day!
March 17, 2017

March has been a busy month for Gilchrist County SWAT.  Kick Butts Day was celebrated this month, which is a national observance held by youth around the entire country to bring focus in their local communities about the ways tobacco companies intentionally target young people through point-of-purchase advertising and other marketing techniques designed to encourage youth initiation of tobacco products. 

Trenton SWAT held their Kick Butts Day observance at the middle and high school to reach a larger number of youth.  SWAT youth set up a banner urging students to take a stand against all forms of tobacco.  This included letting other youth know that tobacco products actually contain some nasty chemicals.  Students signed their names to the banner as a symbol of their personal stand against tobacco. SWAT youth interacted with students in each grade level which enabled them to reach over 200 students with a tobacco-free message.  The Bell SWAT club chose to organize a poster campaign earlier in the month with messages intended to warn students about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use.  Both SWAT events brought attention and energy to this issue, and it is the hope of Gilchrist SWAT members that their efforts will pay off by creating a change in the social norms about youth tobacco use. We already saw evidence of youth attitudes changing during the Trenton SWAT stand against tobacco event. When asked if he would sign his name to stand against tobacco one high school student said, “Absolutely, I will! No one should use the stuff!” Other students expressed similar sentiments regarding their willingness to make a stand against tobacco during these events, as well. Read More


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

Trenton, Fla. – QuitDoc Foundation 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. 8.4% of youth ages 11-17 in Gilchrist 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, QuitDoc Foundation is working with area dental clinics and dentist offices including the Gilchrist County Department of Health Dental Clinic, Palms Medical Dental Clinic, and Dental Office of Dr. Cox in Trenton to spread awareness of the dangers of smokeless tobacco, as well as providing cessation information during the week of Through With Chew Week from February 19-25. Read More


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:


The Tobacco Free Partnership Participates in Gilchrist County Tobacco Litter Clean up
November 19, 2016

The Tobacco Free Partnership has been working hard in the community over the past few months. 

In November, members participated in the Suwannee River Clean Up which was organized through the Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce. After reading a recent article on the negative environmental impact of tobacco waste in the QuitDoc Foundation quarterly newsletter, the Partnership was invited to participate in the event to educate community members about the issue as well as to clean up the tobacco waste.  Along with other clean-up gear such as gloves, participants were asked to place tobacco trash in disposable quart-sized bags which included facts about tobacco waste being the number one pollution on beaches and waterways around the world.

The clean-up began at the Hart Springs boat ramp, and it did not take long for lots of tobacco waste to be discovered. Community members found not only cigarette butts, but sometimes nearly full packs of unused cigarettes had been discarded at the riverside. Cigar filter tips, some with pieces of cigar still attached, and cigar wrappers were also littered around the Suwannee River.  These are obviously made of plastic, and have no chance of decomposing in the natural environment for dozens, if not hundreds, of years to come.  Several containers from smokeless tobacco products were also found at the water’s edge. All of these remnants undoubtedly left hazardous nicotine in the environment which has been shown to harm all kinds of aquatic wildlife. Read More


Tobacco Free Florida and Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County Encourage Tobacco Users to Quit on the Great American Smokeout on November 17, 2016
November 11, 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 Gilchrist County encourage tobacco users to use the day to make a quit plan  or to plan in advance to quit smoking on that day – November 17, 2016.

Gilchrist County Employers such as Otter Springs, Gilchrist County Health Department, Three Rivers Library and Palms Medical Group will host workplace events to raise awareness about 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 as they need or use them in addition to Tobacco Free Florida’s Phone, Group and Web Quit services. Read More


Gilchrist County Youth Attend Regional Students Working Against Tobacco Training in Palatka, Florida
November 5, 2016

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members take their mission to save their generation from tobacco use very seriously. Not even the first hurricane to hit the State of Florida in a decade could dampen their resolve to be the voice of youth working against the influence of Big Tobacco. 

Youth in the region were all set to gather together to commit themselves to regional and local plans to engage peers and community members to take a stand against tobacco when Hurricane Matthew appeared in the Atlantic. Although their meeting had to be postponed, not even the winds of a hurricane stopped their determination to work together to impact their communities for change.

After the winds died down and power was restored, on November 5th, SWAT youth from Gilchrist County and SWAT Region 2, gathered together in Palatka to do just that as they gathered together under the theme, “Leave Your Mark”.  The training started out with a series of ice breakers designed to help the youth get to know each other, as well as providing activities that can be brought back into their own communities to use with their individual clubs.  Current work and tobacco prevention trends around the country were discussed, as SWAT youth learned about the nationwide movement to raise the smoking and tobacco use age to 21. Read More


Tobacco Impacts on our Local Environment
By Tracy DeCubellis
September 19, 2016

Around the United States, many recreation areas such as beaches, parks, and other nature and recreational areas have attempted to stem the tide of environmental damage caused by tobacco waste by creating tobacco free areas.  Many people tend to think of tobacco in terms of secondhand smoke, which is important to be sure, but it is not often that the impact of those cigarette butts, e-cigarette waste, snuff and snus pouches, and other tobacco residue is actually having on natural areas and wildlife when people use them in natural settings. 

It is a well-known fact that tobacco products contain a variety of toxins like nicotine, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, arsenic, and a variety of other chemicals. They do not disappear when someone is finished using a tobacco product and they throw it on the ground. Instead, the toxins that remain in the product are deposited on the ground.  Did you know that cigarette butts are not biodegradable? All of those cigarette butts that are thrown on the ground stay there, polluting the environment. The sad fact is that cigarette butts are the number one source of beach pollution around the world (1). In fact, only about 10% of all cigarette butts are actually thrown away or put into ashtrays (2). Read More


The Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County Elects New Advisory Council
September 7, 2016

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County recently held a meeting where a new Advisory Council was elected which includes two adult members, a young adult college student, and a member of Students Working Against Tobacco.

The youth members are both returning Advisory Council members, Joshua Akin who is a Santa Fe College student, and Kalin Siegel who is a member of SWAT and a high school student. Other members include a returning member, Jamie Hinote, who is the Outreach and Eligibility Specialist for Palms Medical Group.  She also leads the local tobacco cessation groups in association with Suwannee River AHEC which are held at Palms Medical’s Trenton Office.

A new Advisory Council member is Debbie Destin who is very active in the community. Ms. Destin owns Destin’s Dance and Fitness Academy in Bell, Florida. She is also the Events and Activities Director for ForVets which is a Veterans organization that operates Otter Springs in Gilchrist County.

Each member of the Tobacco Free Partnership Advisory Council brings unique talents and abilities to the group, as well as a passion for making Gilchrist County a healthier place by reducing the impact of tobacco use on youth and adults in the community. Two of our SWAT club alumni are also returning members of the Tobacco Free Partnership: Joshua Akin and Cheyenne Siegel. They bring years of experience in public speaking, leadership activities, and an understanding of how tobacco exposure and advertising impacts young people in Gilchrist County.


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SWAT Spotlight: Long-Time SWAT Leader Josh Akin Graduates from Trenton High School
June 7, 2016

As school comes to an end and graduations are held across the county, it is time for us to say goodbye to one of our hardest working SWAT members, Joshua Akin, as he finishes his high school career.  Joshua was in 7th grade when he joined the Trenton SWAT club making him one of the longest serving SWAT members in Gilchrist County.

Josh Akin (L) and Chandler Ash (R) at Daytona Speedway

Joshua has served in several leadership positions as a SWAT member, including acting as our county representative to regional SWAT meetings.  He was part of the SWAT youth delegation that helped celebrate the smoke-free stands at the Daytona Speedway and represented Gilchrist County SWAT at the event.  He was the Vice President of the Trenton SWAT club, and also served on the Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County for several years as an Advisory Council member. 

In addition to his leadership activities, Joshua spent many hours during his SWAT club membership working with local, state, and national leaders.  Locally, Joshua was proud to be an integral part of working with the cities of Trenton and Fanning Springs and the Town of Bell to pass flavored tobacco resolutions in each municipality.  Never one to back away from a public speaking opportunity, Joshua even presented to his school board about current issues with tobacco and youth, and asked them to consider strengthening their tobacco policy.  Although they didn’t change the policy that day, a few months later tobacco use and possession were added as a higher level offenses, and e-cigarettes were included as tobacco in school policy.


From L to R:  Karina Turner, Hannah Turner, Josh Akin

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Gilchrist County Recognizes Annual Tobacco Free Florida Week
May 13, 2016

The week of May 8-14 marked the annual celebration of Tobacco Free Florida Week throughout the state.  Members of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County (TFP) worked to make sure that as many community members as possible were reached. This year’s message focused on the dangers of secondhand smoke, and the fact that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.  The Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida designed a poster campaign to highlight this message, and it was especially aimed at encouraging Floridians to not smoke around children.

The idea in Gilchrist County was to educate as many people as possible, as well as provide people with 3 Ways to Quit information during Tobacco Free Florida Week. As a result, ten locations throughout the county displayed posters (in English and Spanish), and had cessation information available. These locations included:

In addition, Bell Middle School SWAT 4-H club members held an afternoon event to educate their peers about secondhand smoke, and the Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce connected members who wanted to participate via the weekly newsletter.
Read More


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

Trenton, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida program and QuitDoc Foundation 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 Gilchrist County residents 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. Information about avoiding secondhand smoke and how to access local cessation services will be available at many local businesses, health care providers, and veterinary offices... Read More


Gilchrist County Youth Work Toward a Tobacco Free Future
March 16, 2016

BELL, Fla. – Gilchrist 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.

The Bell Middle School SWAT 4-H club held an event to raise awareness among their peers called “Big Tobacco Can’t Have My Brain” which focused on the way big tobacco is addicting young people to tobacco. The club encouraged students of all grades to write down what they were using their brains for instead of getting addicted to tobacco. Students have big plans and big dreams like going to college, getting a good job, playing sports, and becoming a doctor. They plan on remaining tobacco-free to reach their future goals. Read More


Smokeless Tobacco Use Remains High in Gilchrist County
QuitDoc Foundation and Tobacco Free Florida are raising awareness during “Through with Chew Week” February 2, 2016

Trenton, 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.

To raise awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use, Gilchrist County SWAT members will be collecting signatures in support of creating tobacco-free community events during Through With Chew Week, in various locations.

Although youth cigarette smoking rates in Florida are at an all-time low, 12.2 percent of high school students in Gilchrist reported current use of smokeless tobacco products in 2014, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey.  This is significantly higher 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


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." Read More


Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County Elects New Advisory Board
November 10, 2015

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County recently elected new Advisory Council members including two youth members and two adult members to lead the tobacco prevention outreach of the group in Gilchrist County.

Kalin Siegel is a freshman who takes classes at Florida Virtual School and has been a SWAT member for three years.  Kalin has also been an active 4-H member since elementary school.  She became involved in community activities to help keep youth in Gilchrist County from starting to use tobacco through the SWAT 4-H Club, and serves as the Gilchrist County SWAT representative to regional and state meetings. She also advocated for flavored tobacco resolutions in Bell and Trenton, and spoke to the Town Council and City Commission about the issue.

Joshua Akin is a senior at Trenton High School and has been a SWAT member for six years.  Joshua has also been a 4-H member for 12 years.  Joshua has participated in numerous SWAT activities over the past 6 years including Kick Butts Day, Great American Smoke Out, and attending regional SWAT meetings as a Gilchrist County representative.  Joshua traveled to Washington D.C. to speak to his Senators and Representative about the impact of cigars and flavored cigars on young people in Gilchrist County.  He recently attended the Gilchrist County Legislative Delegation and spoke about the impact SWAT is making in Gilchrist County. Read More


Protecting Kids from Secondhand Smoke
Tracy DeCubellis, MS, November 6, 2015

People want a clean environment including clean air, water, and safe food to eat.  This is especially important for children as they are growing.  We know that secondhand smoke is unhealthy, but do we really think about what it might be doing to kids who are around it?

Did you know that babies who are around cigarette smoke have a higher chance of dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?  The CDC reports that 400 babies die as a result of SIDS connected to secondhand smoke every year (CDC, 2015). This is a tragedy that may be avoided by encouraging new parents not to smoke around kids. 

Secondhand smoke can create other problems for kids. Some effects of secondhand smoke around children include:

Read More


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


Creating Tobacco-Free Environments is Good for Kids!
Tracy DeCubellis, MS
September 3 , 2015

Have you ever been enjoying an outdoor event only to have cigarette smoke or e-cigarette vapor blown into your face?

Even distant smoke can make its way into your vicinity, causing irritation or even causing negative health effects according to the U.S. Surgeon General.  

How do you feel about stepping in tobacco spit, or seeing a bottle full of tobacco spit used by someone who is dipping?

By now, it is common knowledge that all tobacco use is bad for your health and that secondhand smoke can hurt you.  But did you know the U.S. Surgeon General has stated that when adults use tobacco around kids in public places, it can actually make them more likely to try tobacco products?   Read More


Should Kids Work Tobacco?
Tracy DeCubellis, MS
August 19, 2015

My great-grandfather was a tobacco farmer. My grandfather was also a tobacco farmer. My father was born and raised on my grandfather’s farm where the tobacco was grown and harvested.  Tobacco has always been part of our family culture. In fact, as a child I saw that every adult in my family smoked, or was a former smoker.  Car rides and family gatherings were smoke-filled affairs.  Tobacco was a way of life for my family, and still is for many of my relatives.   Tobacco is culturally accepted in many rural locations, just as in my family, especially in communities where tobacco is grown. 

The United States is one of the top five tobacco producing countries in the world. Many children in the United States will work in tobacco fields and barns every year.  Florida is not a top tobacco producing state. However, the first reports of illness among children and adolescents caused by nicotine exposure during farm tasks were recorded in Florida back in 1970 (McKnight & Spiller, 2005).  This illness is called Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS).  It can be characterized by a variety of symptoms including, but not limited to, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, grand mal seizures, weakness, headache, and rash at the sight of contact with tobacco leaves (McKnight & Spiller, 2005). Read More


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.

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


Gilchrist County SWAT Youth Address Fanning Springs City Commission
June 2, 2015

SWAT members from Gilchrist County spoke to the Fanning Springs City Commission on June 2, 2015.  They are concerned about the high number of students in their schools who use flavored products when they use tobacco for the first time. 

This is the fourth presentation SWAT has made in Gilchrist County on this topic.  They have also presented at the Gilchrist County Board of County Commission, Bell Town Council, and the Trenton City Commission. 

Each of these groups agreed with SWAT that flavored tobacco products marketed to children are a problem, and each group passed flavored tobacco resolutions.  These resolutions recommend that retailers take these products off the shelves in an effort to reduce the appeal of tobacco to young people in Gilchrist County.  Read More


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.

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. Read More 


Gilchrist County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Club Addresses the Issue of Flavored Tobacco
By Cheyenne Siegel, SWAT 4-H member and Gilchrist 4-H County Council President

Our SWAT club feels that flavored tobacco use by youth is a big problem in Gilchrist County and we wanted to take action in changing this.

Based on the 2012 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, in Gilchrist county 32% of all high school students have tried flavored cigars, and 14.4% of all high school students in Gilchrist County are regular flavored cigar smokers.

In Bell and Trenton there are tobacco retailers less than 1,000 feet from schools, which we believe is a contributor to the amount of youth smoking flavored tobacco. Read More


QuitDoc Awarded Tobacco Prevention Grant for Gilchrist 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 Gilchrist 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. Read More


Florida Youth Tobacco Survey Results Show a Sharp Decline in Youth Tobacco Use in Gilchrist County
by Tracy DeCubellis
Feburary 3, 2015

The county level data from the 2014 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) were published and there is a lot to celebrate among Gilchrist County Tobacco Free Partnership members, SWAT members, and community partners who support the tobacco prevention program. 

Quit Doc first received the tobacco prevention grant in 2008 after the FYTS was given to county high school students.  Unfortunately, the middle school students did not participate in the 2008 survey, but we can measure our progress among middle school youth starting with the 2010 FYTS.

Among high school students we see a significant change in tobacco use in all areas including cigarettes, cigars, smokeless, and all types of tobacco combined... Read More


The Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County Celebrates the Great American Smoke Out
November 21, 2014

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) sponsored Great American Smoke Out (GASO) events at Hobo's Restaurant in Trenton and Palms Medical offices in Trenton and Bell.  The Great American Smoke Out is a national day created by the American Cancer Society to encourage people to quit smoking. 

Tobacco use is the number one cause of premature death in the United States, killing approximately 500,000 people each year.  This number includes about 10% of people who are not smokers themselves, but are people who live with smokers and are harmed by inhaling secondhand smoke. Read More __________________________________________________________________

Gilchrist County SWAT Continues to Educate the Community on Youth Tobacco Prevention Issues
November 1, 2014

Gilchrist County SWAT youth have been active in the past few months by educating local community members about the problem of point of sale advertising geared toward youth, and by starting two new school SWAT clubs at Trenton High School.

Members of the Gilchrist County SWAT club participated in the Gilchrist County Family Fun Fest which was organized by the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department.  SWAT youth attended the festival and spent time educating local students and their parents about the ways that tobacco companies target young people to notice, and buy their tobacco products in stores.  Community members learned that children and adolescents are 20% more likely to notice tobacco advertisements at stores than adults, and that tobacco companies often pay stores to place advertisements in places where kids will notice them.  For example, these pictures show two Gilchrist County stores that advertise tobacco products so that it is impossible to walk into the stores without seeing the advertisements... Read More


Two SWAT Youth Join the Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County Advisory Council
September 9, 2014

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County recently elected new Advisory Council members including two new youth members.   These young people are part of the Students Working Against Tobacco leadership club, and will be helping start a new high school SWAT club at Trenton High School.

Karina Turner is a senior at Trenton High school and has been a SWAT member for three years.  Karina has also been a 4-H member for 4 years.  She quickly became involved in community activities to help keep youth in Gilchrist County from starting to use tobacco.  She helped plan the 2013 Kick Butts Day event at the Suwannee River Youth Fair where she educated community members about flavored tobacco dangers. She also advocated for stronger tobacco rules at school, spoke to the school board and asked that tobacco infractions receive a level 2 (major) offense in the student code of conduct.  In May, Karina went with her SWAT club to speak to the Bell Town Council to ask them to pass a candy flavored tobacco resolution which was passed in June. Read More


Bell Town Council Passes Resolution Encouraging Local Businesses to Halt the Sale of Flavored Tobacco That Targets Youth
June 9, 2014

According to the latest Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, students in Gilchrist County use all forms of tobacco including cigarettes, smokeless products, and cigars at higher levels than their peers across the state. When Gilchrist County high school students were asked if they have ever tried alternative products such as flavored cigars, snus, and e-cigarettes, the results also showed that Gilchrist students try these products at higher rates than other youth around the state.  

With this in mind, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members have been working to change the way the community sees these kinds of tobacco products. They are educating community members on how sales of flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products can lead to experimentation with, and eventual regular use of, tobacco products.  SWAT youth met with the Town Manager of the Town of Bell, and also spoke at a Town Council meeting to explain the problem of flavored tobacco use and how can lead to youth becoming addicted to nicotine. Read More


Residential Buildings in Gilchrist County are Going Smoke-Free
Policies Protect Residents From Secondhand Smoke and Smoking-Related Fires
May 30, 2014

Bell, FL – Smoke-free multiunit housing, a growing trend throughout the country, has made its way to Bell, Florida.

A few residential properties in Gilchrist County have implemented smoke-free policies. The growing list of smoke-free properties in the area includes rental properties managed by Hometown Realty in Bell, Florida

“Lots of clients don’t want to consider living in a house that has been smoked in because of the major clean-up involved in removing the smell and residue,” said Natalie Rankin of Hometown Realty.  Hometown Realty manages tri-plex rentals, and rental homes located in the Rolling Hills subdivision.

“There’s a fear of alienating resident smokers, but most communities that have taken the leap consider smoke-free housing an edge over the competition and have determined that there is a market for this product" according to Chip Tatum, the former Government Affairs Director for the Florida Apartment Association... Read More


Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Honors Chandler Ash of Archer, Florida As South Region Youth Advocate of the Year
Leadership in Fight Against Tobacco Recognized Nationally
May 13 , 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chandler Ash, 17, of Archer, Fla., has been named the South Region Youth Advocate of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for his leadership in the fight against tobacco. Chandler will be honored at a gala in the nation’s capital on Thursday (May 15) along with a national winner, three other U.S. regional winners and a group winner.

Chandler is a senior and is homeschooled. He first got involved in fighting tobacco in middle school through Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) after watching his grandfather struggle with tobacco addiction.

He set a goal of reducing youth tobacco use in his county, and much of his advocacy work has revolved around the problem of fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products. As a result of Chandler’s work, the Gilchrist County Commission passed an ordinance requiring all candy-flavored tobacco to be placed behind the counter, out of the sight and reach of children. The Commission also passed a resolution recommending that tobacco retailers refrain from selling candy-flavored tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes... Read More

Chandler Ash





Gilchrist County Teens Tell Big Tobacco:
We are Not "Replacements"!
March 19, 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, 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.

Gilchrist County SWAT set up a booth at the Suwannee River Youth Fair to let area youth know that tobacco companies are targeting them as the next generation of tobacco users by adding sweet flavors to mask the dangers of their products... Read More ____________________________________________________________________

The Importance of Creating Tobacco-Free Campuses
Tracy DeCubellis, M.S., March 10, 2014

It is no secret that tobacco use is harmful to human health. Even elementary age children I speak with tell me that smoking or dipping is a bad habit, or that it will hurt people.  Despite the fact that even our youngest citizens know that using tobacco is harmful, it is still a practice that occurs even during work hours.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), tobacco use in the workplace actually accounts for the most lost worker productivity compared to other causes such as family emergencies or alcohol abuse (1). Since most smokers want to quit, up to 70% according to the CDC, workplaces that create a smoke-free campus policy could actually be doing their employees a favor in helping them become tobacco-free(2).

Businesses that create tobacco-free campus policies not only protect the health and wellbeing of non-smoking employees and customers, patients, or clients, but they also create pro-health social norms.  This type of campus wide policy may actually go a long way to encourage employees who use tobacco to quit the habit, especially if the campus tobacco-free policy includes cessation help for those who currently smoke or use smokeless tobacco products. Read More


Gilchrist County Student Working Against Tobacco Youth Engage the Community During a Very Busy Fall!
December 10, 2013

The Gilchrist County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) youth have been busy with community outreach activities in the past several months. 

In October, several SWAT youth had the opportunity to address the Gilchrist County Legislative Delegation which was held at the Gilchrist County Board of County Commission board room in Trenton.  The youth spoke to Senator Charlie Dean and Representative Keith Perry about their local, state, and national outreach over the past year on the issues of tobacco marketing targeted toward youth, and candy flavored tobacco.  SWAT youth also discussed the recent increase in e-cigarette use among middle and high school students which was published by the CDC, and explained their concerns that e-cigarette use may become an increasing trend among youth in Gilchrist County. Read More


Tobacco Free Partnerships in both Dixie and Gilchrist Counties Help Local Health Departments with New Tobacco Free Grounds Policies
By Melanie Anderson and Tracy DeCubellis, November 21 , 2013

Secondhand smoke is a well-known health hazard, and many businesses and community organizations have created smoke-free zones to protect customers and children from the negative health impacts associated with secondhand smoke exposure. 

Not as much is known about the impact of e-cigarette vapor exposure, or what is contained in the clouds of smoke-like vapor emitted from people using the nicotine delivery devices.  Since it took decades for the Surgeon General and other public health advocates to conclude that secondhand smoke is very hazardous to non-smokers who passively smoke through no choice of their own, some businesses and organizations recognize that their customers and clients need to be protected from the unknown potential negative health impacts of e-cigarette vapors. Read More 


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... Read More


Gilchrist County 4-H Students Working Against Tobacco Start Another Active Year of Youth Tobacco Prevention
By Chandler Ash
September 19, 2013

It’s the start of a new year for the Gilchrist 4-H Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) club, and they already have big things planned. In the past, they have been extremely successful in reaching out to the community and to decision makers about tobacco related issues. This year, Gilchrist SWAT plans to do even better.

Over the summer, SWAT youth attended the July town hall meeting held by Florida Representative Keith Perry. SWAT youth discussed the issue of flavored tobacco and tobacco marketing in the community that is geared toward attracting young people.  Representative Perry and his legislative aides invited the SWAT youth to attend the Gilchrist County Legislative Delegation meeting in October.  While there, they will have the incredible opportunity to speak to their State Representative and State Senator about the work they have been doing for their community, and to make them aware of how the SWAT program is helping youth in Gilchrist County... Read More ____________________________________________________________________

Gilchrist County 4-H Students Working Against Tobacco Share Their Experienceswith Legislators in Washington DC
June 8 , 2013

On the week of June 8th, three Gilchrist county SWAT members attended a 4-H event in Washington D.C. called Citizenship Washington Focus. Chandler Ash, Tucker McDaniel, and Josh Akin joined the other two Florida delegates and traveled to the nation’s capital. The week-long event focuses on improving participants’ citizenship and leadership skills. Read More


SWAT Students from Gilchrist County Contribute to "Who is the Target", a Short Film on Youth Tobacco Marketing
April 24, 2013

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.

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 a make-shift studio.

"It's good to hear this message coming from kids because we know what's going on with the tobacco companies advertising to us, and we can inform decision makers," said Gilchrist County SWAT student Chandler Ash, who participated in the project.  "This project was also valuable because we were able to let other kids know what tobacco companies are doing, and hopefully they won't make the mistake of using tobacco." Read More

A Busy Month Draws to a Close for Gilchrist County SWAT
March 20, 2013

March has been a busy month for Gilchrist County SWAT. 

At the beginning of the month, SWAT youth participated in a regional training event that brought youth together from North East Florida to discuss the issue of candy flavored tobacco.  The regional event was held to help SWAT youth prepare for Kick Butts Day events around the state.  Kick Butts Day is a national observance held by youth around the entire country to bring focus in their local communities about the ways tobacco companies intentionally target young people through adding candy flavoring to products, creating products that mimic candy, and through point-of-purchase advertising... Read More


SWAT is Making a Difference in Gilchrist County and Throughout the State of Florida

Students Working Against Tobacco clubs are established to give young people in Gilchrist County the opportunity to speak out in the community to let people know the ways in which tobacco companies target them and their friends to become replacement customers for the 430,000 people who die from tobacco related illness each year.  SWAT youth take this message seriously since approximately 90% of all smokers report that they started smoking before the age of 18.  These youth are dedicated to educating and advocating for policies that will help other youth stay tobacco-free for life... Read More


Gilchrist County SWAT Youth Meet with Senate Candidate Connie Mack IV
September 26, 2012

Gilchrist County SWAT youth Chandler Ash and Tucker McDaniel met with Congressman and Senate candidate Connie Mack IV during his stop in Bell, FL. 

The SWAT youth used the opportunity to educate Congressman Mack on the mission and work of SWAT in the community... Read More


Gilchrist County SWAT Students Recognize the Gilchrist County Commissioners for Their Support of Smoke Free Parks
By Chandler Ash, Gilchrist County 4-H SWAT / August 22, 2012

On August 20th, 2012, Gilchrist County SWAT members attended their local County Commission meeting to thank their commissioners for creating designated smoke-free areas at Hart Springs... Read More ____________________________________________________________________

Gilchrist County SWAT Students Visit Tallahassee for 4-H Day at the Florida Capitol
By Chandler Ash, Gilchrist County 4-H SWAT

On February 28th, Gilchrist County 4-H SWAT members made their way to Tallahassee for an event known as 4-H Day at the Capitol. Every year, many 4-H’ers from around the state gather in Tallahassee to go on tours, meet politicians, and learn more about Florida’s government. This year, a whopping 600 4-H members attended... Read More     

Local Students Working Against Tobacco Attend
4-H Conference in Washington, DC

By Chandler Ash, Gilchrist County 4-H SWAT

In July, three Gilchrist County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members went to Washington D.C. for a national 4-H event called Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF).  The purpose of the trip was to take thirteen 4-H youth from around the state of Florida to the nation’s capitol to learn about laws, and how bills are passed, and the political system of our country... Read More


FDA Releases Final Selection of New Cigarette Warning Labels
June 21, 2011

On June 21, 2011, the FDA announced the nine cigarette health warnings required to appear on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States and in every cigarette advertisement. This bold measure is aimed at making sure that every American understands the dangers of smoking... Read More


Point of Purchase Tobacco Advertising Placement Survey
By Tracy DeCubellis, Gilchrist County Tobacco Prevention Specialist

Gilchrist County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) youth and leaders surveyed local tobacco retailers to determine the level of tobacco advertisements being marketed toward children, the kinds of tobacco advertisements near schools, and the amount of self-service tobacco, or products available within reach to children in Gilchrist County stores that sell tobacco.  The survey was completed using the StoreALERT form that reviews exterior and interior advertisements and tobacco placement... Read More


The Gilchrist County 4-H SWAT Club Gains Statewide Recognition for Anti-Tobacco Initiatives
By Tracy DeCubellis, Gilchrist County Tobacco Prevention Specialist

Gilchrist County 4-H SWAT (Students Working  Against Tobacco) Clubs are busy working on several projects in 2011 in the county and beyond.  On January 29, 2011, three SWAT members participated in Gilchrist County 4-H County Events by giving demonstrations on tobacco issues... Read More


Results of the 2010 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey Reveal Progress in Gilchrist County, Florida
By Barry Hummel, Jr., MD, Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation

The results of the 2010 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) were released in November, 2010, and those results reveal the success of tobacco prevention efforts in Gilchrist County, Florida over the last two years... Read More


Surveillance of Point-of Purchase Tobacco Advertising and Placement in Local Businesses Gilchrist County, Florida
by Barry Hummel, Jr., MD, Co-Founder, Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, August 2010

During the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year, surveillance was conducted to evaluate point-of-purchase tobacco advertising and product placement in Gilchrist County, Florida.  Our core concern is the level of tobacco advertising and the amount of self-service tobacco to which youth are exposed in the local community... Read More


Tobacco Issues in the 2010 Florida Legislative Session
by Thomas J. Harrington, Facilitator, Tobacco Free Partnership of Gilchrist County

During the 2010 Florida Legislative Session, two important tobacco issues came before the House and Senate.  The first bill involved secondhand smoke exposure in automobiles that included passengers that were children.  The second involved a shift in funding for community-based tobacco prevention programs mandated by an amendment to the Florida Constitution passed in 2006... Read More