News and Events

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.

Gilchrist KBD Event

“Our Kick Butts Day event was very successful” said Chandler Ash, a member of the Gilchrist SWAT 4-H Club. “We got to reach out to hundreds of kids and tell them about how tobacco companies are trying to use them as replacements for tobacco users who died. We also got a chance to inform the kids at the fair that candy flavored tobacco is especially dangerous since it entices them to try tobacco products that could make them hooked for life.”

For each smoking-related death, at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers each day. These young people rarely consider the long-term health consequences of smoking when they start. Because of nicotine, a highly addictive drug, three out of four youth continue smoking well into adulthood, often with serious and even deadly consequences. In fact, about half of long-term smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related causes.

“Events like Kick Butts Day help youth understand that they are the targets of the tobacco industry,” said Dr. Barry Hummel of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, which coordinates the Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT in Gilchrist County. “Nothing is more eye-opening to a teenager than to realize that they are being manipulated into making a bad decision, a decision that will have life-long consequences.  Sadly, teenagers still make up 85% of new tobacco users each and every year because of those impulsive decisions.”

“Youth have always been a target for the tobacco industry,” said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Shannon Hughes. “Numerous internal tobacco industry documents reveal that the tobacco companies perceived young people as an important target. They developed products, like flavored tobacco, and marketing campaigns aimed at teens.”

The fact is that nine out of 10 smokers start by age 18.  If current smoking rates continue, 5.6 million U.S. children alive today who are younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely as a result of smoking

For more information on the SWAT program is Gilchrist County, please contact Tracy DeCubellis at