Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Clubs in Marion County are Ready for an Exciting 2019-2020 School Year!
September 10, 2019

Schools across the state are back in session and that means SWAT Recruitment season is in full swing!  We are excited to see familiar faces as well as welcoming new members to the SWAT Community.   A few of our clubs have already reported meetings are gearing up for Red Ribbon Week activities.

    One of our very own Marion County SWAT Club members had the opportunity to speak to the Legislative Delegation from Tallahassee. Miss Abbie Slaughter, with the Ocala Sea Anchor Division SWAT Club, wrote a very passionate, very eloquent speech about why tobacco free policies are important to her on a personal level, the environment and the local tourism economy.  Abbie was a bit nervous to speak in a room full of so many important people but she took a deep breath, had her notes and got through it!  She was rewarded for her bravery with a round of applause from the audience and two thumbs up from Senator Rob Bradley (R) District 5.  Below is Abbie’s speech.  

"Good afternoon, my name is Abigail Slaughter, I’m thirteen years old, I’m an eighth grader at Osceola Middle School, and I’m here to tell you why I believe that it is important to have tobacco free policies for our local parks. I was born and raised in Florida and I spend a lot of time outside doing lots of different activities. I love being outdoors and I like being able to breathe clean fresh air. We have a lot of great parks in Marion County and it is disappointing when I go to these parks and see people smoking and vaping, and I find all sorts of tobacco litter, especially near the playground. This is upsetting because little kids shouldn’t have to be exposed to such things when they want to go outside to play. I also feel that it is not right that people are exposed to secondhand smoke against their will when they are trying to be healthy or have fun. The tobacco litter (Cigarette butts, wrappers, and cellophane, the plastic wrapping around cigarettes) is destroying our environment and endangering our wildlife, which as an animal lover, I feel very passionate about. It can also affect our aquatic habitats, which would affect our aquatic wildlife, and the tourist industries. This would have a negative effect on people who, for example, run charter businesses such as my stepdad.

"Vaping has become an epidemic across not only our state, but my own school as well. Recently there have been kids caught vaping in the bathrooms. One specific E-cigarette, known as a JUUL, is very easy to get ahold of and very easy to conceal. I personally know of youth my age who have purchased JUUL’s online directly or have gotten them from friends or family. Because Electronic cigarettes(E-cigs) are so new, we don’t know the long-term effects of using them, or being exposed to the secondhand smoke produced by E-cigs.

"Vaping is harmful to everyone, but it is especially dangerous for youth or really anyone under the age of 25. This is because the part of your brain that controls your decision making is not fully developed until you reach the age of about 25. Nicotine can also harm the part of your brain that controls your attention span, and how you learn. My generation is the first generation to grow up knowing and believing that cigarettes are harmful and have always been told not to use them. Before e-cigs, we were very close to eliminating youth smoking all together. Now, because vaping is so popular with young people, those youth that otherwise would have never picked up a cigarette have become addicted to nicotine through vaping and have a greater chance of smoking regular cigarettes. This is because something happens to their vape and they can’t use it, but their brains have been trained to believe they need the nicotine they will more than likely use a traditional cigarette as a substitute. Recently, there have been more than 150 people hospitalized due to collapsed lungs and several of these people have died because of vaping Scientists think they may have isolated the toxin causing these injuries.  Also, Tobacco related illnesses is still the number one cause of preventable death in America.

"As a Floridian I believe it’s my right to be able to enjoy our beautiful state without being exposed to secondhand smoke and tobacco litter. As a Marion county resident, I would like to see a tobacco free policy, including electronic cigarettes, be enforced all throughout my county. Thank you for your time, I appreciate any consideration you give to these important issues."

If you would like more information on the Tobacco Prevention Program, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), or the QuitDoc Foundation, please contact the Marion County SWAT coordinator Tammy Slaughter at 352-209-9628 or TSlaughter@QuitDoc.com.