News and Events

The Importance of Creating Tobacco-free Policies
By Tracy DeCubellis
March 5, 2019

It is no secret that tobacco use is harmful. Despite our knowledge of the multitude of cancer causing agents and toxins in tobacco, people still use it. One tobacco product that seems to get a free pass in rural areas is smokeless tobacco (dip/chew/snus). It seems that people have the opinion that it only harms the user and, since there is no smoke, using it in public or at youth functions is not as much of an issue as smoking or vaping might be.

It is important to correct that belief as it is untrue. Smokeless tobacco use can increase the risk of oral cancer by 80% and pancreatic cancer by 60%. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are at least 28 cancer causing agents in smokeless tobacco. Since smokeless tobacco is actually “spit” tobacco, no one can really say it only impacts the user. It impacts the people around the user as well as the environment.

The trend across the State of Florida is creating tobacco-free policies for recreational spaces, especially those that are youth-focused. In our area alone, there are many tobacco-free policies. Some of these tobacco-free events (including cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vaping, and smokeless) and venues in our area include:

These are just a few events or venues around the tri-county area that already have declared tobacco-free zones, including the use of smokeless tobacco and e-cigarette products. This is important because young people are influenced by social pressure of friends using smokeless tobacco and can feel the need to comply with the tobacco use of a peer group(1).

In addition, young people who see adults using tobacco at public events such as youth sports leagues, youth fairs, or other events intended for youth recreation, can lead to a positive social norm about the use of tobacco. In other words, when kids see the responsible adults with a pack of cigarettes, a can of dip, or even using these products, it influences them to think this is what most adults do. In fact, it can even lead kids to greatly overestimate the number of adult tobacco users(2). When youth think that most adults use tobacco products, it can lead to the belief that using tobacco can be a “rite of passage” into adulthood.

Each owner or manager of a community organization can take a step to improve the health of the community and influence young people to live healthy, tobacco-free lives through tobacco-free policies. For more information or for help in creating a tobacco-free policy, please contact Tracy DeCubellis at or 352-463-7006.


  1. Holman, L.R., Bricker, J.B., & Comstock, B.A. (2013). Addiction, 108, 1327–1335.
    Lynch & R. Bonnie (Eds.), Growing up Tobacco Free: Preventing Nicotine Addiction in Children and Youths. National Academies Press.