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Melody Christian Academy SWAT

Suwannee County Students Working Against Tobacco Gives Florida Youth the Tools They Need To Help Reduce the Tobacco Industry’s Influence and Advocate for Change.

By Cameron Wilson, Melody Christian Academy SWAT

The need for youth to speak up and make their voices heard about the issues they care about is as important as ever, which is why one student-led organization in Florida is leading the way in the fight against the tobacco industry and the addictive products that target youth.

     Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) is a statewide youth organization focused on educating, empowering, and mobilizing Florida youth to revolt against and de-glamorize Big Tobacco. As a member of the Suwannee County SWAT chapter, I believe SWAT is an important cause more youth should get involved in. Suwannee County youth have a higher than average rate of vaping, smoking and spit tobacco use. This is why Suwannee SWAT members feel it is important for us to help educate our peers about the harmful effects of tobacco use. Despite significant progress over the years, tobacco and e-cigarette use is still prevalent, and the tobacco industry’s antics must be stopped. SWAT is working to change the social norms associated with tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

     SWAT has been educating and empowering youth and communities since 1998. SWAT has had several successful initiatives throughout the years. ‘Not a Replacement’ was a statewide campaign where thousands of youth reminded tobacco companies that they are unique individuals with the potential to make a positive impact on their community. ‘Not a Lab Rat’ is the current statewide campaign that focuses on the truth behind e-cigarettes and how youth can stop the spread of misinformation. Through such initiatives, SWAT continues to work toward changing the way people think about tobacco, making it less desirable, less acceptable and less accessible.

     My reason for joining SWAT was clear. I hate watching people destroy their health with addictive chemicals. SWAT was my opportunity to help make my community healthier and a safer place for everyone. Joining SWAT helped me by giving me the resources to publicly advocate and do outreach for my community. They have also shown me what a difference it can make when youth are able to come together and try to make the world a better place.

     There is still work to be done to protect our generation and future generations from the tobacco industry. By working with peers, students can create change that will keep tobacco products out of Suwannee County and improve the health of our family, friends, and community. SWAT is open to all Florida youth in 6th-12th grade. There is a SWAT chapter in every county in Florida, and some counties also have clubs in schools and community organizations. In Suwannee County, we have two clubs: one at Suwannee High School and one at Melody Christian Academy.

     If you are interested in learning more about SWAT and how youth can get involved, contact Ms. Jess Davis at Melody Christian Academy or visit I hope that in writing this, more youth are inspired to stand up and speak out against the tobacco industry by joining SWAT.