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SWAT In Action: Quicktime Slideshow

Key Concepts


SWAT Successes

Regional Tobacco Prevention Coordinators

Organizational Structure (Adobe pdf file)

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1.1 The mission of SWAT is to educate, unite and empower the diverse segments of youth in Florida to revolt against the manipulation and targeting by Big Tobacco, specifically of youth, through the use of the truth message.

1.2 SWAT will represent youth to government, community, and businesses in promoting its ideals and achieving its goals. SWAT will empower young people through education, media, marketing, activism, involvement, enforcement, evaluation and working with the truth campaign.

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The purpose of SWAT is to provide a means by which the young people of Florida may develop a coordinated, unified assault against the manipulation of Big Tobacco. SWAT will also provide young people with the chance to be advocates and to get involved within their state, regions and communities. SWAT will allow youth to gain “real-life” experiences through planning, executing, and evaluating tobacco prevention activities. SWAT will also attempt to provide meaningful workshops and training sessions that will allow youth to be more effective in any endeavor that they choose to undertake.

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SWAT's message consists solely of educating and empowering youth to resist the deceitful marketing and manipulation of the tobacco industry. SWAT DOES NOT deal with the dangers, harms, or health effects on youth. They receive this message through schools.  Smokers are accepted in SWAT because they too are victims of tobacco's money and marketing.

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Key Concepts

SWAT’s message is not about health.

SWAT’s message is about Big Tobacco marketing practices and exposing the manipulation of the tobacco industry.

SWAT’s does not tell anyone how to live their lives – you have enough people doing that already. The message is not about telling youth - “don’t smoke.”

Instead, SWAT works to generate awareness about what Big Tobacco does to get a share of the youth market..

There is one enemy, Big Tobacco.

SWAT does not talk down to or “preach” to anyone, including smokers.

Smokers are allowed to join SWAT because they are victims of the tobacco industry’s manipulative advertising.

We are a generation UNITED against Big Tobacco.

TRUTH is the message and SWAT is the messenger.

SWAT is the organization that complements the TRUTH Campaign (the commercials on television with which many people are familiar). Students between the ages of 12 and 18 can SWAT join to support the TRUTH Campaign.

SWAT is a youth advocacy group that promotes leadership and community involvement. SWAT uses these avenues among teens to create awareness about tobacco.

Key Messages:
Their brand is lies. Our brand is TRUTH.
Exposing the lies and manipulation of Big Tobacco.

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The Florida Tobacco Pilot Program resulted from Florida’s landmark lawsuit with the tobacco industry settled on August 25, 1997. The vision of the late Governor Lawton Chiles and the goal of the program were to reduce tobacco use among youth. The program began its two-year Pilot Program in February 1998. Among the several components of the program is the youth-led organization SWAT - Students Working Against Tobacco, an advocacy organization available to all Florida middle and high school students, dedicated to empowering youth to live tobacco free and to become advocates for living tobacco-free. SWAT members carry the message to live tobacco-free, which includes those messages branded as the “Truth” campaign. This campaign reveals Big Tobacco’s advertising efforts to lure teens to smoke and the deadly facts about smoking and using other tobacco products. Students work together at the local level and also as a statewide group. Each of the state’s 67 counties has a youth representative on SWAT’s board of directors, which meets quarterly to plan, organize and evaluate strategies. Eleven members also serve as SWAT’s executive committee, and all members are invited to annual teen summits that unite the youth to celebrate successes and chart their next course. There are currently thousands of members in this youth movement.

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SWAT Successes

  • 32 city ordinances and 27 county ordinances have been adopted that place tobacco products behind the counter and out of the hands of youth. Bay County’s attempt to pass an ordinance was challenged by Lorillard Tobacco Company. Threatened with legal action, SWAT held its ground and won.

  • SWAT’s membership has grown to thousands of youth across the state of Florida.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is including examples of youth-empowered tobacco control interventions from SWAT in a guide for youth tobacco control that is being published for international distribution.

  • SWAT members visited Indiana, Minnesota, and Canada to spread their message and to help other tobacco control programs continue their efforts.

  • Facing difficult budget cuts and the cancellation of the statewide tour, SWAT members and staff pulled together to continue the efforts through a grassroots campaign. Activities were planned and carried out in just over a week across the state, reaching thousands of youth from every county.

  • SWAT’s “Out of the Air” campaign educated Florida’s citizens regarding second-hand smoke and the industry’s attempts to discredit statistics that demonstrate its harmfulness. Their efforts helped support the passing of Amendment 6 to limit smoking in public places.

  • SWAT members have gone on to build their own companies like Revolution and the Delta Project, turning the lessons they’ve learned here into a marketable business. Members have joined national organizations such as the American Legacy Foundation and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

  • "Underestimated," the SWAT movement’s first underground marketing campaign was created and carried out by the youth. Piquing the interest of youth everywhere by posting the word “underestimated,” SWAT successfully spread its message and recruited new members. Don’t “underestimate" the power of the youth.

  • SWAT members have earned the respect of adults and youth in Florida and across the nation. Their input has been requested in the development of drug control strategies, health information publications, and more.

  • SWAT held its first ever Cultural Diversity and Recruitment Training, reaching over 350 youth with new information about the specific targeting of ethnic groups by the tobacco industry.

  • The SWAT Board of Directors and Executive Committee has worked with DHAT components to develop innovative curricula, ad campaigns, and initiatives to reach youth.

  • SWAT’s voice is heard in community partnerships across the state, with youth taking on leadership positions and serving as decision-makers for tobacco control in their county.

  • Because of program efforts there have been dramatic decreases in students who smoke—an amazing 57% decline in smoking among middle school students and a 37% decline among high school students.

  • Declines have also been reported in the number of both middle and high school daily smokers. The number of middle school daily smokers has decreased by 63% and high school decreased by 45%.

  • The program has also affected middle and high school youth who classify themselves as “committed never smokers,” even if their best friend offered them one. 56% of middle school and 43% of high school youth are committed to never smoke. That is a 73% increase among high school youth, since the beginning of the program. I guess they won’t to be manipulated by Big Tobacco.

  • SWAT members have become an important part of the political process, educating key decision-makers on the necessity of tobacco prevention, lives and dollars saved.

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