News and Events

Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Clubs are Making Plans Despite the Pandemic
September 17, 2020

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

One of Marion County’s most active clubs, Sea Cadets SWAT, hosted a 5-day, in-person Petty Officer Leadership Academy (POLA) training and welcomed other cadets from around the region. As part of the training, the youth are taught the importance of leadership and setting a good example for others to follow. The Sea Cadets has a strict policy against tobacco and vaping use. It is not a zero-tolerance policy, however, those cadets who are caught breaking the policy are given the opportunity for corrective action and not simply kicked out of the program. This is one of the examples why Sea Cadets works so well with the SWAT model. The program aims to empower these youth to make good choices and not just penalize them when they make a mistake.

  During the POLA training, the SWAT Coordinator had the opportunity to spend time with the cadets teaching them about the dangers of vaping and the correlation to COVID-19. It was just last summer and into early fall that people were dying from a mysterious vaping related illness, and the term EVALI was introduced to the public. EVALI stands for Electronic Vaping Associated Lung Injury. As of late October 2019, there had been approximately 26 deaths that were linked to EVALI. By mid-December, that number had climbed to over 2,500. What is now known about COVID-19, is that at approximately the same time frame, the virus started to move its way through the United States. EVALI and COVID-19 both damage the lungs and can lead to irreversible injuries. In the beginning, COVID-19 was diagnosed in the same way as EVALI, using a CT scan to look for ground glass opacity. What is the difference between the two? COVID-19 is viral infection that can happen to anyone and that we take measure to protect ourselves against. EVALI is a result of a choice that we make. Read More    


Lung Health and Multiunit Housing
September 15, 2020

The Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Marion County can frequently be found as a vendor at several local events throughout the year. As all residents and businesses have been adjusting to the changes that social distancing has brought, the TFP has been striving to stay in touch with the community. Now more than ever, lung health is a priority. Through the dedication and hard work of community partners, the message of lung health, tobacco cessation, and policy change is staying strong.

This month the spotlight event for the TFP was the North Central Florida Apartment Association’s virtual trade show. Several vendors were provided time to speak with individual property management. The discussions with the property staff ranged from a tenant’s tobacco use within units that have a smoke free policy to property managers looking to quit smoking themselves.

The conversations that arise from local events aren’t always surprising, but they are never lacking in inspiration. It’s encouraging to discuss the barriers of tobacco use faced from different angles, especially on such a personal level. Read more


Marion County Efforts in Preventing Youth Tobacco Use at the Retail Point-of-Sale
June 11, 2020

The Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Marion County is a collaborative effort of various local organizations and concerned residents that work to reduce tobacco use among youth and de-normalize its use in public places. While 2020 has reduced gatherings and subsequently taken a toll on effective community based endeavors, the TFP members have continued to push through and engage with decision makers and stakeholders to address tobacco where it is most readily available and normalized, as the retail point-of-sale.

This year’s efforts began in February, when TFP member Linda Caldwell spoke to the Ocala City Council members about the need for increased awareness concerning Tobacco Retail Licensing (TRL), saying “When our youth visit convenience stores, there is tremendous influence to purchase tobacco products at the point of sale. Children may stop by to get a snack, but while there, standing at the register, they fall prey to the power wall, a concentrated advertising effort of signs, displays, coupons near the register; the goal of the Power wall is to encourage impulse sales. If it didn't work, it wouldn't be there! One purchase may lead to addiction. A local TRL can help prevent youth from this dangerous marketing trap.”

Caldwell went on to educate the decision makers concerning how TRL works in a community that, “TRL fees provide for self-financing enforcement and TRL can help communities improve health equity.” Unfortunately, the recent concern for youth initiation does not lie only with traditional cigarettes, but with electronic cigarette products, and Caldwell explained that, “in Florida, our state tobacco retail license only applies to retailers of traditional tobacco products. Retailers who only sell e-cigarettes and vapor products are not required to get a license.” Read More


Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter Continues Their Mission... Virtually!
June 6, 2020

In the time of COVID-19, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) have not been able to meet face-to-face for most club meetings, activities and events, but many of the Marion County SWAT Clubs utilized several different online platforms to stay connected with each other and engaged in new, creative ways.

One of our most active SWAT Clubs, Meadowbrook SWAT/SADD, met several times throughout the past few months, and came up with their own version of a tobacco pledge in observance of World No Tobacco Day. Using the hashtag #SmokeFreeSummer, each club member wrote down their personal reason for staying tobacco free this summer and displayed their pledge cards on their screens. The club advisor was then able to take a “Brady Bunch” style screen shot of all the pledge cards and plans on printing a copy to display in the class room next fall. They also participated in a tobacco and vape themed jeopardy-style game achieving various prizes.

While all the clubs like to meet for fun activities, the advisors make sure that the youth are also learning important lessons. During one of the Meadowbrook SWAT Club meetings, the youth discussed the challenges and opportunities they were experiencing during the pandemic and heard many different perspectives on how the lockdown was affecting others in their community. They discussed how their own mental health was being affected and how negative feelings and emotions, even boredom, can lead to destructive decisions such as trying cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, alcohol or drug experimentation. Most importantly they learned new ways to practice selfcare in addition to the value of checking in with their friends and family and maintaining that social connection, a crucial part of our mental wellbeing. Read More


Spotlight on the Marion County SWAT Chapter:
The Ocala Sea Anchor Division (Sea Cadets) SWAT Club

March 16, 2020

Last year, the Sea Cadets adopted a roadside to keep clean and once per quarter, they don their yellow vests and garbage picks to rid the half mile stretch of road in front of Belleview High School of all the litter that accumulates. The trash collected doesn’t change much from quarter to quarter, and typically includes household trash, beer cans and bottles, cigarette butts, boxes and wrappers. The most alarming item collected was the newest trend to hit the market, the Puff Bar. A Puff Bar is very similar to JUUL in many ways but the biggest difference is that it is designed to be disposable. Much like the JUUL, the Puff Bar is easy to conceal and easy to mask the use of the device, but is much more affordable costing a mere $10.

In addition to the litter clean up, the Sea Cadets SWAT Club planned an activity for the opening night of recreational softball at Shocker Park. The club members created anti-tobacco and anti-drug posters to be hung near the concession stand, for maximum exposure. During the game, the youth answered questions and gave facts about the dangers of nicotine addiction, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarette use.

Several years ago, the QuitDoc Foundation partnered with Shocker Park on a CDC funded effort called Measure Up Marion, creating a tobacco-free policy and hanging signs all throughout the grounds from the entrance to the furthest dugout, to ensure the health and safety of the youth and adults who use the sports complex. Pictured is one of the signs created by the Marion County team, which still hangs today! Most of the sports parks throughout the county followed the example of Shocker Park and enacted their own tobacco-free policies and received signage, with the help of the QuitDoc Foundation and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County. Read More


What’s on the Horizon for Tobacco Free Parks in Marion County?
March 11, 2020

Tobacco free environments is something that every Marion County resident has a right to, because it provides clean air to breathe. As a former smoker, I understand the urge to smoke or vape, but I also have a greater appreciation for smoke and vapor free air around me. The Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County strives to improve the air quality in public places all over the county by aiding in the development and normalization of tobacco free policies.

This year, there were several community events that participated in tobacco free policies. The Glow with the Flow 5k, the Fall Feast, The World’s Greatest Baby Shower, the Strawberry Festival, and the newest event to join this year was Ocala’s FAFO. All the event organizers provided positive feedback on the policy in place and have been exceptional advocates for the de-normalizing of tobacco use in public places, especially in places where youth gather. SWAT youth were eager to participate in the Strawberry Festival’s tobacco free event message, by gathering the support of participants through pledge cards for tobacco free parks. They were hugely successful in this endeavor, gathering over 70 pledges. Read More


Marion County SWAT Clubs Fall Activities
December 16, 2019

Members of the Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter participated in a number of activities this fall to share tobacco prevention information.

The Region 2 SWAT Summit was held in Starke, on October 12th and two youth from the Sea Cadets SWAT Club were able to attend the training event. They learned about e-cigarettes, the ways social media can be used to promote anti-tobacco messaging, and got some great practice on how to be an effective public speaker. They also learned about the newest anti-tobacco observance “Not A Lab Rat” Day, to be held annually, on the third Thursday in October. “Not A Lab Rat” educates and promotes the message to youth to not be the next generation of nicotine users. “Not A Lab Rat” Day was held on October 16th and several of the clubs created PSA’s for the morning announcements at their schools, and posters for the bulletin boards in the common areas. SWAT Club members wore their SWAT Shirts to school to promote the observance.

Red Ribbon Week is big in Marion County and there is an annual kickoff event in which several of the clubs volunteered.  Each day of Red Ribbon Week has a different theme and Tuesday has become “Talk About Tobacco Tuesday” and the youth create anti-tobacco messages using multiple mediums. Some clubs used this day to observe “Not A Lab Rat” while other clubs used the Red Ribbon theme of “Send A Message…Stay Drug Free” to create screen shots of text messages from peers trying to get them to try tobacco or vape products.
Read More


The Importance of Creating Comprehensive Tobacco-free Worksite Policies
by Tracy DeCubellis, M.S.

November 21, 2019

It is no secret that tobacco use is harmful. Despite our knowledge of the multitude of carcinogens and toxins in tobacco, people still use it during work hours. According to the Center for Disease control, tobacco use in the workplace accounts for the most lost worker productivity compared to other causes such as family emergencies or alcohol abuse (1).

Tobacco use and recreational nicotine use via e-cigarettes at work can cost employers money. The loss of productivity for a business with smokers is estimated to cost $4,056 in productivity and $2,056 in medical costs per year (2). Additionally, unless an employer creates a tobacco-free policy for the workplace that includes e-cigarettes and vapor products, employees may be able to use their recreational nicotine devices at work. Some counties and municipalities have laws regulating these products, but Florida does not restrict their use indoors.

Businesses that create tobacco-free campus policies protect the health and wellbeing of employees. This type of campus wide policy may encourage employees who use tobacco to quit the habit, especially if the campus tobacco-free policy includes cessation help for those who currently use tobacco or recreational nicotine products like e-cigarettes. This is important because statewide, of the 15.8% of adults who currently smoke, 64.9% of them have tried to stop in the last year (3). Read More


What’s on the Horizon for Tobacco Free Parks in Marion County?
September 12, 2019

The Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Marion county is gearing up for the new fiscal year, starting with the Legislative Delegation that took place on September 10. The partnership was represented by a youth member of the local Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT); which is detailed in the corresponding SWAT article.

The main focus for this year’s delegation session and for the TFP is currently on parks and the use of traditional and electronic cigarettes in areas where children and families play and gather. For months the community members have voiced their opinions at the City Council meetings, with the Levitt AMP Ocala Music Series being the vehicle.

The City of Ocala is in a position that is shared among every municipality in the State of Florida which is outlined in the Florida Clean Indoor Act and the Florida Statues which states that the law, “expressly preempts regulation of smoking to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject.” Basically, Florida law overrides local laws, and that local government may not enforce policies that are more strict than the state laws. Presently, Florida law prohibits the use of smoking indoors only; not outside spaces. This isn’t to say that municipalities are shrugging it off and falling in line. In fact, many successfully continue to create policies that prohibit smoking in outdoor and public places, including parks.

In Marion County, the TFP has partnered with several organizations who are concerned with the issue of smoking and vaping in public places; especially where children gather. One of its partners, the Marion County Children’s Alliance (MCCA), is the organization who leads Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). This group of youth has partnered with SWAT to tackle smoking and vaping in the parks head on. They continue to participate in several park clean ups throughout the year, create petitions, and educate their peers. Read More


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. Read More


VAPING 911 at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health
by Sarah Damien
August 30, 2019

As one of the tobacco control premier conference, the National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTOH) is the perfect venue to showcase the QuitDoc Foundation’s Vaping 911 Program. Vaping 911 representatives, Sarah Damien and Kristina Zachry, traveled to the conference to present on the programs’ findings and achievements.

Attending the conference is, in a word, motivational. The NCTOH goal is to help improve and sustain the effectiveness and reach of tobacco control programs and activities. But the result is so much more. The conference inspires all in attendance, putting forth new ideas, insights, and programs into tobacco education, prevention, and intervention. The NCTOH is an important forum for those in the tobacco control community to exchange ideas and renew our commitment to the movement.

QuitDoc representatives Sarah Damien (L) and Kristina Zachry (R).

One of those new programs and ideas is the Vaping 911 program. Piloted in Marion County through a grant by the Marion County Hospital District, Vaping 911 is an educational series designed to inform youth of the new dangers presented by the tobacco industry in the form of new and innovative products like JUUL, iQOS, Sourin, and other electronic nicotine delivery devices. Tobacco prevention specialists have been searching for a program to address youth’s uniformed perspectives on the “relative harm” and “safety” of these devices. Read More


Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members Attend Statewide SWAT Training
June 12, 2019

The 2019 SWAT Statewide Meeting was held in Fruitland Park, FL from June 7-9. While this was not my first SWAT retreat, it was a first for the three youth who attended. Upon check-in, all were pleasantly surprised to learn that the breakout sessions  could be selected as attendees desired. There were several to choose from including Youth Advocacy, SWAT-vocate, Public speaking, Social Media Marketing, and News Media Advocacy. Selections were made all moved on to the main room where we were entertained with a game of tobacco bingo while waiting for more youth to arrive. 

Opening ceremonies commenced promptly at 4pm and our jammed packed, fun-filled weekend was in full swing! Attendees heard from Laura Corbin, Bureau Chief for Tobacco Free Florida, Sachit Gali, President of the Youth Advisory Board, and LaDarius Gammage, Statewide Youth Advocacy Coordinator. They explained the purpose of the meeting and gave a brief overview of NEXXT as, this will be the next generation to stand up to Big Tobacco. The entirety of the retreat was focused on this central theme. Since the regions are divided by location in the state, introductions continued with the other Region 2 SWAT members, and then attendees were broken up into random groups to play games and participate in some of the planned activities.

The first activity started with basic tobacco industry information and statistics, which was an extremely helpful refresher course and a great way to kick off the event. The following session was facilitated by Tricia Dahl, from Yale School of Medicine, and she detailed the information on e-cigarettes and the dangers of vaping. Ms. Dahl’s entire field of study is focused on tobacco and youth; she had extensive knowledge to share and the youth really enjoyed hearing from a verified expert in the field. Read More


Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County Aims to Educate
June 10, 2019

The partnership may be well known among local organizations as the county’s leader in tobacco education, but the residents are strikingly less familiar with the objectives and success of the partnership. This year, the Tobacco Prevention Specialist has made attempts to expand the reach of the partnership’s message by educating populations in Dunnellon and Belleview in addition to the Ocala area.

Educational presentation at partnering faith-based organization Ramah Missionary Baptist Inc.

The audiences reached were both pleased to have the education, and shocked by the information. Information that Tobacco Free Kids shares, like the fact that 480,000 tobacco related deaths occur each year which is more than alcohol related deaths, other drug use, car accidents, suicide, homicide, and AIDS; combine them all and tobacco related deaths are still more numerous. Also, Just the Facts tells us that the tobacco industry’s advertisings costs amount to 1 million dollars every hour, and that the executives are quoted in conversations targeting youth as future customers. Another fact the community was unaware of are the Assurances of Voluntary Compliance agreements that several convenience and retail stores have to ensure decreased exposure of tobacco and tobacco ads to youth that store managers don’t seem to know exist based on community surveys. Read More


Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco Clubs Celebrate "Kick Butts Day"!
March 20, 2019

Marion County SWAT youth have been busy this quarter during Kick Butts Day 2019! 

Clubs across the county planned out several different options recognizing this national tobacco observance.  By hosting Kick Butts Day activities, the counties youth raises awareness about the tobacco issues in their community along with encouraging and supporting their peers to be tobacco-free! 

A few examples of the activities completed include: a road side clean-up exemplifying how tobacco litter is the most littered item in the world, PSA announcements, anti-tobacco posters displayed around school campuses, and a letter writing campaign to aid in persuading the decision makers in the Ocala City Council to place “no smoking zone” signage in Ocala City Parks for potential tobacco free public places to play.


Taking into consideration that Kicks Butts Day coincided with Spring Break, these dedicated SWAT Club members really went the extra mile to ensure these events and important messages reached the community, their peers and decision makers. Read More


Habitat for Humanity’s Strawberry Festival Goes Tobacco Free
March 2, 2019

“Habitat for Humanity of Marion County hosts its signature fundraising event each year called the Habitat Strawberry Festival which features live music, entertainment, vendors, food, kid zones, thrill rides, bounce houses, Strawberry Jam 5K, Habitat Food Tent, car show & STRAWBERRIES lots and lots of strawberry treats. All proceeds benefit the construction of a new home for a qualifying family who was living in substandard or overcrowded conditions or who cannot qualify for traditional lending. This home provides stability, security and a safe place for their children to play and live. The Strawberry Festival is one of the biggest events in Marion County and continues to grow each and every year.”

The Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Marion County has been a proud sponsor of the event for 5 years. This year sponsoring the BMXTrickstars who also promote healthy lifestyles and youth prevention. The event has been steadily growing in size and popularity reaching 250 venders and 50,000 visitors. The event coordinator has been partnering with the TFP for the previous 3 years, making the Kids Zone tobacco free. This year, a 100% tobacco free event policy was brought to the board and was unanimously passed; expanding the tobacco free zones to the Car Show, Vendor Ally, Health Zone, Main Stage, Food Pavilion, Craft Zone, Kid’s Zone, and the parking lot. The signs were designed according to the board’s recommendations and the input from the TFP partners, highlighting strawberries for cohesion and visual cues for attendees. Read More


Tobacco Free Worksites are Expanding in Marion County
November 15, 2018

Marion County has been gaining more tobacco free worksites this fall, which create safer and healthier environments for employees and customers alike. The CDC tell us that most tobacco users want to quit, and that implementing tobacco free policies increase the success rates for those making a quit attempt.  Those worksites gained, such as Ocala Community Credit Union and Ramah Missionary Baptist Church Inc. have taken the step to join in the effort for creating environments with clean air to all those on the grounds. Other worksites, like ClosetMaid, have exceeded the average tobacco free worksite by introducing improved insurance for employees which offer increased access to tobacco cessation aids like nicotine replacement therapies options, counseling and medications. Additionally, this particular worksite is on its way to being the first to receive the Florida Tobacco Cessation Alliance (FTCA) award in Marion County.

Ocala Community Credit Union is one of those local businesses that once you are a customer, you continue to come back. This member owned not-for-profit bank has serviced the local residents since 1953. The management and board continue to strive towards the latest software, ATM access, and highest customer service. I know this to be true, not only because of the recent tobacco free policy installment, but because I am one of the 2,800 satisfied customers of this bank. The staff is genuine, and the management cares. It is made even more evident by the recent implementation of the tobacco free grounds for employees and visitors.

The President and CEO, Steven Nazaruk, says about the tobacco free grounds, “the new policy is great, I really believe it’s a good thing, and as a bonus I don’t have to pick up as many cigarette butts at the entrance.” In addition to providing healthier environments, tobacco free worksites have several advantages for businesses. They save businesses money in health care costs, and in productivity, Tobacco Free Florida tells us it adds up to about $6,000 in cost saving for employers every year. Read More


Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members Attend Regional Training
By Abbie Slaughter
November 03, 2018

SWAT, or Students Working Against Tobacco, is an organization that consists of youth preventing the use of tobacco in teens. For twenty years this group has had an annual summit to educate SWAT youth from around Florida on the latest tobacco education information. SWAT members then take this information and pass it on to the community, so they can understand the severe consequences of using tobacco in order to prevent youth use. This year’s summit consisted of topics such as Photovoice, SWAT’S twentieth anniversary, advocacy vs. activism, and the new Not A Lab Rat campaign. The presentations were given by the SWAT youth advisory board.

The Summit was held at the Montgomery Presbyterian Center in Stark, Florida. When first arriving, there was a check-in table at the front room of the building, where you received nametags. Teens were placed in the front of the room and adults were placed in the back, the teen’s tables had folders with agendas, notepads, and papers needed for the various activities. Introductions and Icebreakers came next, adults had to guess concepts on the board from the 2000’s, and teens guessed concepts from the 1900’s; this icebreaker was very entertaining for all.

The first presentation was Photovoice, by Neyah Carter, which explained Photovoice. This platform expresses issues, strengths, and weaknesses in the community through pictures. Photovoice allows people to gain knowledge, advocate, and educate others and themselves. The second presentation, Advocacy vs. Activism by Emma Ronchetti, explained the difference between Advocacy, the act of supporting a cause, and Activism, direct action of something, and when to use them in different situations. There was a short break afterwards, to let the adults set up for lunch, and the teens were given the chance to play outside in the basketball pavilion. After the delicious lunch, there was a SWAT’s 20th Anniversary presentation by Ryan Helmes, which told attendees about every important event that has happened in SWAT history, leading to what SWAT has become now. Read More


The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program is Set to Have a Busy Year!
September 24, 2018

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 and are gearing up for annual Red Ribbon Week activities in October! 

The new statewide strategy campaign, “Not A Lab Rat” has been well received and we are looking forward to seeing all the different ways the clubs incorporate the new campaign.  Also, with the 20th anniversary of Students Working Against Tobacco, we anticipate a busy year with many activities!

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: 352.359.5383 or


What Point of Sale Tobacco Marketing Means for Your Community
September 18, 2018

Have you ever found yourself in line at any store, scanning the area to see if there is that last minute grab item that decidedly is just what you were looking for, and then add it to your purchase pile on the cash register conveyer belt? That is not by accident, and it’s call “point of sale.” It is a tactic used by the experts, because it works.

Experts in this field can range from marketing experts, to product display experts, to sales experts. One of the most notorious types of these point of sale experts is undoubtably the tobacco sales and marketing experts. According to the Federal trade Commission Cigarette and Smokeless Reports, they spend about $8.7 billion every year to accomplish premium point of sale marketing, which breaks down to $1 million every hour. The tobacco companies know how to sell their products based on research, and they use the advantage of point of sale to do so. In fact, tobacco companies compete with other tobacco companies to ensure that their product receives the best display, and then the retailer is paid to display it prominently for, “maximum visual impact,” says Phillip Morris USA.

So, what’s the big deal? Why is marketing a product something you should care about? The short answer is because children are impacted most by these targeted sales. Tobacco companies lose hundreds of thousands of customers every year, averaging 480,000 deaths related to tobacco use, which is more than alcohol related deaths, car accidents, other drug use related deaths, and aids combined. If the industry doesn’t allure to young people early, the odds of them ever starting is significantly decrease by age 21; the Centers for Disease Control tell us that 90% of tobacco users first tried cigarettes by the age of 18. Read More


Back to School Bash Swings in the School Year
July 28, 2018

The school year in Ocala has opened with a bash for 5 years in row, a Back to School Bash put on by the Children’s Alliance of Marion County. The Tobacco Free Partnership was a proud sponsor this year helping them aid 950 youth in school preparedness.  Additionally, youth received dental cleanings, free meals, and even health screenings. The event also included a boutique that first opened with last year’s bash offering free clothing and hygiene products to families, and this year served 125 of them.

The Tobacco Free Partnership was in attendance during the event, helping to educate youth on the dangers of tobacco use, and providing information to adults who may be interested in making a quit attempt. Tobacco is never an easy subject to talk about with those who are current tobacco users, especially when their kids are nearby, but being that most want to quit, the attendees are always interested in learning the real cost of tobacco and tips on making a successful quit attempt. According to the Center for Disease Control, 70% of tobacco users actively want to quit using, and only 1 in 10 of quit attempts are successful. While the Back to School Bash is a youth and family event, it is often the adults to go home with the most tobacco knowledge. Tobacco will grasp its user with a powerful grip and quitting, like anything that is worth achieving, takes practice. The average number of quit attempts can range from 10-15 times before one is successful. So, if you, like some of the families at this event, have an addiction to tobacco and have little ones in your life that motivate you to quit, keep practicing and remember that the small steps will get you there. Read More


Sharing the Message: QuitDoc Foundation and the Cancer Alliance Present to Local Chamber of Commerce
By Sarah Damien, Marion County Community Health Advocate
May 15, 2018

The QuitDoc Foundation has been part of the Cancer Alliance of Marion County (CAMC), participating in the efforts to help the community in the battle against cancer. While CAMC helps the individual by coordinating early diagnosis screenings, understanding treatment plans, connecting people with support groups and assistive services like the HUGS program; the QuitDoc Foundation is striving to stop the cancer problem from ever happening. We do this by reducing the #1 controllable behavior that will prevent cancer: Tobacco Use. Many of QuitDoc Foundation’s programs are aimed at working with youth where, through education and prevention efforts, we can prevent tobacco use for the next generation.

The Cancer Alliance was invited to the local Chamber of Commerce to present on their mission. QuitDoc Foundation was featured as the main speaker, focusing on Lung Cancer prevention and screening. We also shared our on-going youth projects like Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County (TFP), and the Be A Tobacco Free Influence Program partnered with Marion County Hospital District. As part of the presentation, guests got to sit in on a piece of the Be A Tobacco Free Influence educational series featuring a demonstration of the lungs at work. Read More


Marion County SWAT Youth Conduct Local Park Clean-up!
April 28, 2018

Thanks to some dedicated Marion County youth, one of our city parks is a little bit cleaner!  As a community service project, the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) youth joined forces with the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Youth Advisory Board on a sunny Saturday morning to do a tobacco litter clean up.

In the span of only 90 minutes, 14 youth gathered nearly two gallons of tobacco litter, including cigarette butts, cigarillo tips, cigarette boxes, and cigarillo wrappers.  Also collected were glass alcohol containers, metal bottle caps, drug baggies and paraphernalia, and other common waste.  Most of this litter was collected near the parking areas, pavilions, picnic tables, and play equipment.

What was noticeably not found was any type of signage prohibiting the use of tobacco and tobacco products within the park or near places were children gather.  This was very concerning to the youth, who were inspired to reach out to the mayor of the City of Ocala and ask for his support in petitioning the city to install signs near all pavilions, play equipment, gazebos, picnic tables, or any place where people might gather within the park.  Currently, the City of Ocala does not have a tobacco policy in place for the parks that are operated by the city. Read More


Major Public Health Organizations Join Together to Stop Florida Proposal 94
By Lauren Walter Fischer, Marion County Tobacco Prevention Specialist
March 7, 2018

Pop quiz: which state in the US has the highest decrease in smokers since 2006? Follow up question, in what year did this same state’s voters overwhelmingly pass comprehensive and best practices tobacco prevention and cessation programs? If you guessed Florida, and 2006, you would be correct.

It’s no surprise that Florida's decrease in tobacco use and exposure go hand and hand with the initiation of the program, but what really drives the point of the effectiveness of these programs is that Florida has been extremely successful in reducing tobacco trends compared to national averages. You would think such successful programs not only would continue to grow but would become model programs for other states to follow as an example.

You would think.

If you haven’t heard already, Proposal 94 is currently under review at the local level by several committees. If the proposal passes in March it moves to the November ballot, and has potential to redirect, or worse, eliminate funds entirely that have been designated towards the tobacco prevention for youth and adult cessation programs that were developed by the Centers for Disease Control.

The elimination of the program is only possible because every twenty years Florida forms a Constitutional Revision Commission that can propose changes to the State Constitution. This year, one commissioner is pushing for funds from Tobacco Free Florida’s extremely successful program to be diverted into cancer research. Additionally, the amount of funds that will be redirected is unspecified.

Organizations all over the country and state have geared up and united to pump the brakes on this irresponsible proposal that has now been rejected by the American Cancer Society, The American Lung Association, The American Heart Association, and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. It’s not just the well-known organizations that are standing up against this proposal, but also local youth, and community-based organizations.    

The QuitDoc Foundation, a leader in tobacco education, prevention, and research, is one of those community-based organizations. Now, they have taken a firm stance against the proposal moving forward by diving head first into education and advocacy on the drawbacks of Proposal 94, byshowing up when it’s of greatest consequence, and by taking the steps to empower individuals at the local level. Read More


Through With Chew Week Assembly Grabs Attention
By Tammy Slaughter
February 23, 2018

I was invited to speak at the Dunnellon Christian Academy SWAT Club Assembly for Through with Chew Week.  Approximately 75 students were in attendance, ranging from 5th grade and up.

The students were very excited to have a guest speaker and to learn about the different forms of smokeless tobacco and electronic drug delivery system (EDDS) devices.  Several students shared stories of their family members who use tobacco in various forms, and how it affects them directly. These examples included smoking in cars and visiting family members who have tobacco odors on their clothes.  Many students expressed that they knew of at least one person who has used tobacco products, and about 1/3 said they knew someone who has used a smokeless tobacco product.  When asked if the students knew anyone who used an EDDS device, about half the students raised their hands.

As part of any presentation given for SWAT Clubs, we always include facts and information on “Big Tobacco” and the tactics that they use to market their products towards youth.  This is the heart of the SWAT program and the basis for forming youth empowerment model clubs.  We educate the youth on the amount of people who die each year from tobacco related illnesses, why the tobacco industry is so very interested in targeting them directly, about product placements in retail stores, why products are only allowed in certain places, and about the dangers of becoming addicted to tobacco products at such a young age.  Many of the youth think that if they do use tobacco products, they will not become life long users. They truly believe they will be the in the minority of people who are classified as casual tobacco users and that they will not become addicted.  At this point, I like to ask the group if any of them have grandparents who currently smoke.  Without fail at least 10% will raise their hands.  I then ask if they know how old their grandparent was when they started using, and their response is almost always in the teenage years.  I then tell them to do the math.  For many of these youths the total number of years is 50 years or greater.  This is a very powerful tool for helping youth understand the powerful addiction tobacco products. Read More


More Marion County Businesses are Supporting Tobacco Free Worksites
December 7, 2017

Tobacco Free Worksites are one of the healthiest places for any staff to complete their daily jobs. They encourage more time away from tobacco use, and provide an irreplaceable support system from their management. The Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County works to support any existing worksite policies, and creating environments to normalize tobacco free policies in the workplace.

The Florida Fall Feast was the highlight event for normalizing tobacco free environments in the workplace, and Jenkins Auto Group is one of the Marion County worksites with decreasing employee tobacco use thanks to their tobacco free policy.

The Florida Fall Feast is one of the best attended events in the county, and has been sponsored by the TFP (Tobacco Free Partnership) for some years. The majority of attendees represent the blue-collar workforce, and decision makers at local businesses. This year, the event took a turn for the best. Not only was the TFP represented on every single table, but also all along the fence line, near the bathrooms, and entrances. The event coordinator encouraged the distribution of the TFP labeled toothpicks, and “Tobacco Free Event” signage to prominently be displayed.  This is a huge step forward for this event; potentially clearing the way for a signed policy for next year. Many of the attendees took notice of the TFP for the first time because of the table toothpicks, while also realizing the event was tobacco free. Read More


Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Youth Attend Regional Meeting
October 21, 2017

The Region 2 SWAT Training was held in Starke, FL on October 21, 2017. As the new Marion County SWAT Coordinator, this was my first experience at any type of SWAT training; so, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Additionally, this was a first for the two youth who attended with me. Anxiously, we waited to see what was in store for us; let me tell you, we were not disappointed!

The keynote speaker was Mr. Sam Allen.  It was interesting to learn his history with the SWAT program and to see how he has taken all that he has learned and gained from participating in this enriching program to make his career out of it.  His message was clearly very inspirational to the youth.  The theme of his address was “The Seven Things I’d Tell My 15 Year-Old Self” and it was not only youth engaged, but the adults in attendance were as well.

  After a brief intermission, the attendees were divided into two groups for a team building exercise called the GridWalk.  The youth had so much fun trying to figure out how to get their entire team out of the grid, without any mistakes.  If one person made a misstep, the whole team had to start over.  The youth came up with some creative and ingenious ways of marking the path out of the grid. Next, the Youth Advisory Board members gave an informative interactive presentation on ENDS which included youth receiving two answer cards, and asked multiple questions throughout the power point.  THE YAB did such a great job not only with the ENDS presentation, but the entire meeting.  They were so well organized and well spoken! Read More  


Tobacco Free Partnership Supports Tobacco Free Policy at the Glo with the Flo 5k
August 26, 2017

Marion County has a wide variety of events throughout the year that organizations can sponsor and community members can participate. However, there is one of these that is different than any other event that the county offers, and it’s the Glo with the Flo 5k.

The race begins in downtown Ocala, runs through the historic neighborhoods, and finishes at Citizen’s Circle, a hub for music, art, and entertainment. It is not because it is a 5k that makes this event special, or even its route, but rather when and what is included. It is one of the very few evening 5k’s, and participants literally light up the streets while they run. Glow sticks, glow necklaces, glow in the dark clothes and paint, if it glows the runners wear it.

It opens with festive music, chalk art, local youth performances, and then leads into a dance stretch routine for the audience to follow along before beginning the race. After the race, there are more performances by youth and an awards ceremony. Local venders may set up to share information, offer food or swag, and be a part of all the event has to offer. Read More


Student Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) is Making Changes
August 20, 2017

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), is making changes in Marion County and at the state level. The most prominent change being an over-night summit. The club has hosted over-night summits in the past, but this was the first in several years. The new lead for the state program has promised to continue to improve the experience for SWAT youth, and adult attendees at summits and seminars in the coming years. SWAT offers several opportunities for youth to demonstrate leadership and master the empowerment model. This year’s summit opportunity was expanded in the form of a two-night stay at the Lake Yale Conference Center and Camp. Youth and adults were provided a one of a kind lesson in subject focused team building. SWAT is the team, and curbing tobacco’s influence is the lesson.

The Marion County youth selected to attend this summit were happy to be a part of this change. While at the summit, the youth explored various policies that could be targeted for making tobacco use and sales changes at the state level and locally using the MAD (Message Audience Delivery) Skills model. They had several breakout sessions that geared them towards honing specific methods to fight Big Tobacco. One youth said he learned more than the topic of tobacco during the breakouts, “In the DIY sessions, I learned a lot about power point, stuff I didn’t even know you could do.” He was very excited to share with his family his knew knowledge on tobacco, and the skills he will use in a variety of school assignments. Read More


TIPS 2 Quit Reaches Marion County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers
June 2, 2017

School Resource Officers (SROs) play a significant role in public schools, helping to ensure a safe and secure campus. SROs receive training in counseling techniques to be a support system for students and to recognize potential risk factors for things such as drug abuse. As part of a recent comprehensive training session, Marion County Sheriff’s Office SROs met with QuitDoc Foundation staff to learn more about the Tobacco Intervention Program for Students, better known as “TIPS 2 Quit”.

TIPS 2 Quit has been available in Marion County for over a year now, thanks to grant support from the Marion County Hospital District. This innovative program developed by QuitDoc Foundation provides students with education and awareness of tobacco and related issues so they can make more informed decisions for themselves and become agents of positive change in their communities.

According to the 2016 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey (FYSAS), Marion County youth aged 11-17 are using electronic cigarettes at rates higher than state average (12.1% vs. 11.6%) and “ever tried” electronic cigarette use rates are increasing exponentially, rising from 6.1% in 2012 to 28.4% in 2016. 1 in 5 youth (20%) reported current use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, or electronic cigarettes in 2016; the SROs found these tobacco use statistics very sobering. Read More


Outdoor Summer Fun and the Risk of Wildfires
June 1, 2017

Many locals enjoy spending time in the beautiful Florida scenery during the summer months. However, an innocent day outdoors this summer season may come with a serious risk, especially if you use cigarettes.  Due to the continued hot, dry and windy conditions, Marion County officials signed an emergency declaration putting a countywide burn ban into effect in April.  Since then, over 700 acres in North Marion County have succumbed to wildfire.  Fortunately, the fires have been contained and no lives were lost.


The Florida Department of Agriculture reports that in the first six months of 2017, nearly 2,300 separate wildfires burned approximately 234,000 acres throughout the state of Florida.  Record low rainfall contributed to the extreme dry conditions. From January - April 2016 the total rainfall for Florida was 15.76 inches, as compared to January – April 2017, where the total rainfall was 9.19 inches.

What is the main cause of these fires? Humans. According to the National Park Service, as many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.  Consider leaving cigarettes OUT of your outdoor summer plans. Read More


Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County runs the PACE Derby Day 5k/10k
May 6, 2017

PACE Center for girls is a long-time partner of the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Marion County. PACE offers a renowned and one of a kind alternative learning center with unquestionable results that you must see to believe. According to their history, “PACE is now recognized as a national model for reducing recidivism and improving school success, employment and self-sufficiency amongst girls by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children's Defense Fund, National Mental Health Association, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.” The Derby Day is just one of the ways the partnership between PACE and the TFP is represented in Marion County, and probably one of the most fun. It entails a walk, jog, or run around the Florida Horse Park, an award ceremony, and all the freebees of a 5k/10k including swag bags and a carb packed breakfast.

This year, a group of no less than five  TFP members participated in the PACE Derby Day including the leads of a new QuitDoc Foundation program who have also partnered with PACE in Marion County, and are inspiring youth to “Be A Tobacco Free Influence” for further success.

The Be A Tobacco Free Influence program is made up of two parts: Tobacco Intervention and Prevention for Students (TIPS) and the Student Tobacco Addiction Treatment (STAT) program, which is currently being offered at PACE in Marion County. Here is how STAT works... Read More


Students Working Against Tobacco Joins in on “Friday Night Done Right"
April 21, 2017

“Friday Night Done Right” is a campaign hosted by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) in Marion County that focuses on teen empowerment by offering positive alternatives for a fun Friday night. With the launch of this campaign, middle and high school students are encouraged to make educated choices about how they spend their time; especially on their Friday nights. This is one of the most entertaining ways to normalize the concept of having a good time with other youth in the community without the addition of alcohol and drugs.

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) has been working to de-normalize the use of tobacco among youth and in the public for several years; so, participation in this event was an easy decision. Active youth in attendance from the local SADD and SWAT Clubs could see the reactions of other youth in disbelief and excitement who had never heard about the two clubs strong messages of prevention and youth empowerment.

The SWAT booth featured a banner and the always popular “Body Board.” The “Stand Against Tobacco Banner” encouraged the booth’s visitors to sign a pledge promising never to use tobacco, or in some cases never to use it again. The educational and eye catching “Body Board” uses images to communicate that tobacco harms every part of the body, that using it can result in serious life-long consequences, and it can drastically change your appearance. This effective teaching tool never ceases to be the highlight of the SWAT events, bringing the true dangers of tobacco use out in full view. Read More


Woodside Apartments will Implement Tobacco Free Policy in July 2017
March 16, 2017

Kelly Mahoney has been working for Woodside Apartments as the apartment manager for nearly two years.  She was assigned a unit that had been previously occupied for by heavy smokers 3 years.  She recognized the visible damage that had been done such as tar stains on every surface.  Appliances and doors were “tacky” to the touch.  After a few days in the unit, she noticed a strange red substance oozing from the walls in the bathroom. She had no idea the ooze was the result of accumulated tar from second hand smoke, also known as third hand smoke, dripping down the walls.    

Growing up, Kelly lived in a home where she was exposed to second smoke by her parents’ tobacco habit. Her mother reduced her tobacco intake after having another child, but remained an occasional smoker throughout Kelly’s life. Kelly’s father maintained a habit of3 packs a day for nearly 30 years. Diagnosed with lung cancer, he limited his tobacco usage during chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but was unable to make a successful quit attempt.  Sadly, He passed at the age of 65.  Due to constant second-hand smoke exposure while growing up, Kelly has a heightened sensitivity to smoke, and suffers from chronic bronchitis. Today, she carries a prescription inhaler for sudden attacks. When required to inspect rental units of a tobacco user, she experiences severe coughing fits and burning eyes.

During her years as a property manager, Kelly has seen firsthand the expense and hard work required to clean out a unit damaged by tobacco use.  She has used harsh chemicals to get rid of the nicotine stains and smells in her own. Even after multiple applications, tar continues to bleed from the walls in the bathroom after showers, and in the kitchen after using the stove. Read More


Dunnellon Christian Academy Celebrates Kick Butts Day
March 9, 2017

“Are those real?” and “Awesome! Awe gross!” was the primary reaction from the youth as they entered the room for the Kick Butts Day awareness presentation. Proving that information that is well organized and planned has the potential to carry a strong message. That’s exactly what the Dunnellon Christian Academy SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) Club did this year. The youth prepared a verbal presentation, and scheduled for the local tobacco prevention specialist (TPS) to attend with a lung simulator display. This event demonstrated leadership and dedication by the participating SWAT officers who, with enthusiasm and concern for the choices that they and their peers will be confronted with surrounding tobacco use, communicated Big Tobacco’s aim to target youth as replacement tobacco users.

The Dunnellon Christian Academy SWAT Club expands to the entire 6th, 7th, and 8th grades totaling 27 active members with leadership roles maintained by 16 youth. For this event, it was the highly engaged and committed officers who coordinated the special presentation, and delivered the Kick Butts Day message. They specifically requested the lung simulator display for their presentation, and the Marion County TPS was happy to assist.

The TPS expanded on the SWAT officer’s points, explaining just what the tobacco use death toll amounts to: a jumbo jet filled to capacity, and crashing every day. Additionally, supporting their message about Big tobacco needing replacements for these deaths occurring every day, and that it is accomplished through marketing tactics and flavored tobacco targeting youth. Moving to the lung display, the TPS went on to explain how tobacco use affects the lungs, and providing instruction on the simulator revealing these consequences. Read More


QuitDoc Foundation and Tobacco Free Florida are raising awareness during “Through with Chew Week”
February 10, 2017

Ocala, Fla. – QuitDoc Foundation and the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida program are raising awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco – like chew and dip – during Through With Chew Week. This national public awareness campaign was created to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco among young people, and Tobacco Free Florida aims to help combat this deadly addiction. Through With Chew Week takes place Feb. 19-25, with the Great American Spit Out – a day when smokeless tobacco users join together to quit – on Feb. 23.

Although the youth cigarette smoking rate in Florida decreased over 50 percent between 2012 and 2016, the number of Florida high school students who reported current use of smokeless tobacco products decreased only 24.5 percent in those same four years. The disproportionately higher rate of smokeless tobacco use in rural areas is also alarming – current youth smokeless tobacco use is more than three times higher in rural communities than in non-rural areas. 2% of youth ages 11-17 in Marion County reported current use of smokeless tobacco products in 2016, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey.

“While we’re proud that youth smoking is at an all-time low, the number of young Floridians using smokeless tobacco is decreasing at a dramatically slower rate,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. "We need to do more to educate about the risks and deter our young people of using these products.”


To raise awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use, QuitDoc Foundation is hosting the Local Neighborhoods Community Clean Up in Marion County. The initiative takes place on Feb. 15, 2017 at the City of Ocala E.D. Croskey Field and Recreation Center area 4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. Partnering organizations participating in this initiative include: The Boys & Girls Club of Marion County, Marion County Children’s Alliance, Funtastic After School Program, Students Working Against Tobacco, and Students Working Against Destructive Decisions. Read More


The Issue of Smokeless Tobacco
January 17, 2017

Smokeless tobacco is not burned, contains nicotine and is addictive. Smokeless tobacco is typically called spit tobacco, chewing tobacco, chew, dip, plug, and probably a few other things. Types of smokeless tobacco include:


Employees’ Health Sparks Policy Change for Local Restaurant
December 6, 2016

As Jim Stewart watched his employee leave work in an ambulance, caused by a severe reaction to secondhand smoke, he knew changes needed to be made. Stewart, the manager of the Dairy Queen Grill and Chill at the Hwy 326 and I75 interchange, initially felt an outdoor smoking area was an expected service to offer customers who use tobacco. However, after realizing the huge impact that secondhand smoke exposure has on non-smoking customers and his employees, he was motivated to formally make the property grounds entirely tobacco free. In addition to the parking lot, storage areas, and bathrooms, smoking, vaping, and other forms of tobacco use are no longer permitted in the outdoor eating area.

New signs will be provide to promote that the outdoor seating area will now be tobacco free!

The decision to implement a tobacco free policy is not always easy. Stewart was concerned about losing revenue from his patrons who smoke or use other forms of tobacco. He looked to Measure Up Marion for help. Community Health Advocates Sarah Damien and Tammy Slaughter, QuitDoc Foundation staff who also serve as partners of Measure Up Marion, educated him on the importance of eliminating second hand smoke exposure in outdoor spaces, helping him to see the value in the bigger picture. Increased maintenance and cleaning costs, along with the health risks to him, the staff, and restaurant patrons, outweighed the potential loss of revenue due to a few customers who prefer to continue use of tobacco in public spaces.

Measure Up Marion is a 3-year initiative aimed at improving the overall health of all Marion County residents, reaching them where they live, play, dine, and worship. The initiative is led by the Heart of Florida Health Center and is funded through a grant provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Several area businesses and county services have partnered to reach the goals outlined within the grant program. The role of the QuitDoc Foundation, as outlined in the grant, is to create tobacco free environments throughout Marion County through policy change.

If your business or organization would like help reviewing the benefits of making your property tobacco-free, contact Sarah Damien at 352-538-1941.


QuitDoc Foundation and Measure Up Marion Prepare Public Housing Residents for New Smoke-Free Policy
November 17, 2016

In November 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that public housing authorities across the nation would transition to smoke free living environments. “We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, especially the elderly and children who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a press release. “This proposed rule will help improve the health of more than 760,000 children and help public housing agencies save $153 million every year in healthcare, repairs and preventable fires.”

As the Ocala Housing Authority prepares to transition to tobacco free grounds in all 4 low income housing properties, Measure Up Marion and the QuitDoc Foundation have been helping to prepare residents by providing educational presentations about the health effects of secondhand smoke and safety concerns of lit tobacco products inside the home. It is part of Measure Up Marion’s effort to Improve Community Health with initiatives funded by the Centers for Disease Control to help reduce secondhand smoke exposure. Read More


Tobacco Free Florida and Tobacco free Partnership of Marion County Encourage Tobacco Users to Quit on the Great American Smokeout on November 17, 2016
November 14, 2016

WHO/WHAT:  In observance of the Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, Tobacco Free Florida and The Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County encourage tobacco users to use the day to make a quit plan or to plan in advance to quit smoking on that day – November 17, 2016.

The Refuge, the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, and Ocala Regional Medical Center will host a free event to raise awareness about Tobacco Free Florida’s free and proven-effective resources available to Floridians to successfully quit. The “Quit Your Way” program provides users interested in quitting access to free tools, including a 2-Week Starter Kit of nicotine replacement patches, Text2Quit, Email Tips and a Quit Guide. They can choose as many as they need or use them in addition to Tobacco Free Florida’s Phone, Group and Web Quit services. Read More


Students Working Against Tobacco Members in Marion County Continue to Leave Their Mark!
November 5, 2016

This year’s Region 2 SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) Meeting was an especially educational and entertaining experience for the youth and adult attendees. The day was packed with highly engaging interactive activities and break out groups that were well received by the entirety of its participants. The contributing youth from Marion County were enthusiastic to experience such a valuable learning opportunity; Ryan Stiles raved about it saying, “This was a lot of fun; even more than I expected! I made new friends, and I learned so much; I can’t wait to tell the SWAT Club at Vanguard everything we did!”

Activities varied from a line up challenge ice breaker to team building with role play problem solving, to painted hand prints where youth participated in the “Leave Your Mark” campaign. The local Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Lauren Walter especially enjoyed the role playing team building activity, and the tobacco education that was delivered through a web based answer model game called “Kahoot.” The game could be accessed through a web address on a cell phone. The group came up with a team name and registered for the private game code where multiple choice questions were posed and teams could rack up points against the other teams in the room. The questions were all created in advance to educate participants on various tobacco topics. This new avenue for learning fostered maximum participation, friendly competition, and by the end a new-found comradery. Read More

Marion County SWAT Youth Kunal Upadya (center) and Ryan Stiles (right) from Vanguard High SWAT Club signing the Regional SWAT Meeting shirt, with the Marion County Tobacco Prevent Specialist Lauren Walter (bottom right).


Deliverance Outreach Ministries: Impacting Health in their Community
August 20, 2016

Today, many face severe health conditions impacted by lifestyle including heart disease, cancers, Chronic Lung Disease, diabetes, and liver disease. These disorders could be significantly improved or prevented if those suffering had received the necessary education and intervention early on. This is a philosophy that Pastor Tyrone Oliver of Deliverance Outreach Ministries supports. His church is not solely a place of worship, but also a place of healing and educating.

Deliverance Outreach Ministries started in the living room of the Pastor Oliver, who became a minister in 2008 and ordained as Pastor in 2014, with his wife Emily Debose Oliver. In addition to the Sunday Service, Deliverance Outreach Ministries is home to a volunteer run Medical Clinic. “We have 5 doctors and 2 dentists on staff right now,” says Pastor Oliver, “and we are looking for a Spanish speaking doctor to expand our outreach.” In addition to local physicians, there are volunteer ARNPs and RNs. Their patients must be 18 or older, have no insurance and have income that is below the federal poverty level.

Pastor Oliver supports focusing on all aspects of health which includes physical, mental and spiritual well-being; he wants the church to be an overall environment of healing. This is why Oliver made the choice to be Tobacco Free with the help and support of Measure Up Marion. In the treatment of others, he wants to make sure the congregation and church patients are protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, but to also encourage smokers to adopt healthier lifestyle choices.

Measure Up Marion, a Partnership In Community Health program funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is providing the opportunity to engage this congregation through education and awareness. On August 23rd at 7:00pm, Community Health Advocates with the QuitDoc Foundation will be on hand to provide information on secondhand smoke and tobacco health issues, and have will resources available for those that might be interested in quitting. Read More





Manette Cheshareck will Coordinate Youth Tobacco Intervention and Cessation Programs in Marion County
July 2, 2016

Manette Cheshareck has been selected to run QuitDoc’s “TIPS 2 Quit” and “Student Tobacco Awareness and Treatment (STAT)” programs in Marion County. QuitDoc received funding through a Marion County Hospital District grant to provide these programs to youth at risk for using tobacco and underage minors cited for using tobacco at school or in the community. 

The “TIPS 2 Quit” program is a rotating series of workshops designed to provide information of the health risks of tobacco use, as well as the marketing tactics used by the tobacco industry to encourage underage tobacco use.


The “STAT” program is a youth tobacco cessation program designed for students who are willing to attempt to quit using tobacco.  Both programs are provided free-of-charge to youth throughout Marion County.

  Ms. Cheshareck joined QuitDoc Foundation in 2012 as the Marion County Tobacco Prevention Specialist (TPS), serving as the primary contact and lead for the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida grant funded activities throughout Marion for four years.  As of July 1, 2016, she made the decision to take over as Program Manager for the Marion County Hospital District grant funded program “Live Tobacco Free—Adolescent Tobacco Intervention and Cessation Program”, or better known as TIPS 2 Quit. This project is a perfect fit for Manette, combining her passions of health education training and outreach, as well as tobacco cessation. TIPS 2 Quit is unique in that it provides tobacco education and intervention for youth aged 12-17 and has a second component providing in-person youth tobacco cessation classes. There is a lack of quality youth tobacco intervention and cessation programming available, and this project has allowed QuitDoc Foundation to bring its youth tobacco programming to Marion County. Read More


Introducing Lauren Walter as the New Tobacco Prevention Specialist in Marion County
July 1, 2016

Please join the QuitDoc Foundation in welcoming Lauren Walter as the new Tobacco Prevention Specialist (TPS) in Marion County. The TPS represents The Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida locally through its partnership with the community as the facilitator of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County. By maintaining this service in the community, Marion county residents, decision makers, and stakeholders are able to stay informed about changes in the state, county, and city relating to tobacco policies, use, and progress towards greater tobacco knowledge among the public and youth.

Additionally, the TPS coordinates with schools and community organizations to establish SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) Clubs for youth. This program works to increase knowledge, action and empowerment among local youth to impact youth tobacco use rates and alter the social norming of tobacco use. Finally, along with other QuitDoc Foundation employees of Marion County, the TPS aims to assist in policy change for workplaces, multi housing units, and now faith based communities who request to integrate tobacco free policies at their locations.



  Lauren was born and raised in Marion County, venturing to other parts of Florida to receive an education, and then returned to Marion County to begin her career. While working as the Education Director for the Marion County Boys & Girls Club, she started part time with QuitDoc Foundation in 2014 as the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Coordinator. She later began working on a different QuitDoc Foundation Project called Measure Up Marion assisting public places to establish tobacco free environments. As the new Tobacco Prevention Specialist, she intends to continue working on tobacco free environments in public places. However, she is most passionate about reaching out to the youth in the community to raise awareness concerning the dangers of tobacco, and to empower them to take a stand against the companies that target them as replacements. Many experts, including the National Institutes of Health, suggest that tobacco is a gateway drug; therefore more harmful with regard to future drug use and behaviors than previously believed. As a former teen and young adult smoker, Lauren is now a strong advocate for young people urging them to see through the marketing manipulations, and to never succumb to the traps which lead to picking up the harmful habit. Read More


Local Decision Makes a Major Impact!
June 23, 2016

Looking for an unforgettable place to have lunch? Ocala Fresh Produce and Deli might be the place to try, known locally as serving some of the best sandwiches in town. The owners Chris and Nina demonstrate both their skills in the kitchen and their appreciation for their community. They have partnered with Measure Up Marion to provide a tobacco free setting for employees, a friendly atmosphere free of second hand smoke for patrons, and coming soon is a healthy options menu.

Before the restaurant’s grounds became tobacco free, Chris was a tobacco user. Deciding to make their establishment tobacco free provided the motivation he needed to eliminate tobacco from his daily routine. Creating tobacco free work environments makes it less accessible to the user during a workday, thereby assisting in quit attempts. Chris shared his story, explaining that Nina had wanted him to quit, that the employees noticed his tobacco use during work hours, and everyone around him supported his decision to quit. Ocala Fresh Produce and Deli partnered with Measure Up Marion and the QuitDoc Foundation in February of 2016, and soon after Chris made his tobacco free lifestyle decision. He is still tobacco free today.  

The American Cancer Society tells us that tobacco free grounds in the workplace is beneficial for everyone for several reasons. It reduces health costs, and increases productivity; in the case of tobacco users themselves, an environment that supports quitting will address the users position in the Stages of Change. Read More


QuitDoc Foundation Exposes the Risks of Secondhand Smoke
Eighth Annual Tobacco Free Florida Week Aims to Break the Myth that Secondhand Smoke is Harmless
May 2, 2016

Ocala, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida program and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County are launching a new initiative, Secondhand Smoke Exposed, as part of the eighth annual Tobacco Free Florida Week, taking place May 8-14, to educate Marion county residents about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

This year’s theme, Secondhand Smoke Exposed, focuses on dispelling the common myth that secondhand smoke is harmless. The fact is that breathing even small amounts of secondhand smoke can be dangerous. The Marion County Board of County Commissioners is declaring by proclamation that May 8-14, 2016 officially be named “Tobacco Free Florida Week” in Marion, at their May 2nd meeting. QuitDoc Foundation and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County are partnering with the Florida Department of Health in Marion on this initiative, and each will be represented at the meeting to accept the signed proclamation. The Tobacco Free Partnership is also supplying posters designed by the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida to local partners, businesses, and recreation areas to help bring the message community-wide, and is kicking off Tobacco Free Florida Week on May 7th at the PACE Center of Marion’s Derby Day 5/10k event, which has been declared a tobacco free event at the Florida Horsepark. QuitDoc Foundation CEO Dr. Barry Hummel and his wife Dr. Darby Sider will be runners in the 10k event that day in support of this event.

“Many people are unaware of how detrimental secondhand smoke exposure can be to one’s health,” said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Valerie Lacy. “The goal of this year’s Tobacco Free Florida Week is to make sure all Floridians are aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke. We encourage Floridians to join the fight against tobacco and help make Florida a healthier state for all.”

“We are at a critical time in Florida as we try and protect children from secondhand smoke exposure in public places,” said Dr. Hummel.  “Hopefully, the focus on this issue during Tobacco Free Florida Week will help us raise awareness and increase support for creating smoke-free parks and playgrounds in Marion County.”


QuitDoc Foundation supports local tobacco-related interventions, including raising public awareness about subject areas related to secondhand smoke. From guiding a multiunit housing property through the process of going smoke-free, to presenting the benefits of a tobacco free college campus, representatives in Marion County offer various services.*

And by partnering with local initiatives such as Measure Up Marion and the Marion County Health Alliance, QuitDoc Foundation and the Tobacco Free Partnership are working to address the entire county with tobacco prevention and education services. Despite the growing trend of smoke-free policies and the substantial decrease of smokers in the state, many of Bradford County’s most vulnerable are still involuntarily affected by secondhand smoke, which has hundreds of toxic chemicals including about 70 that are known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke greatly increases the risk of lung cancer, which is Florida’s number-one cancer killer. Each year, primarily due to secondhand smoke exposure, an estimated 7,300 non-smoking Americans die of lung cancer. Read More



Community Spotlight: Marion County native Wesley Sapp is Named a Truth Initiative Youth Activism Fellow
March 24, 2016

Truth Initiative honored North Marion High School alumni Wesley Sapp as a 2016 Youth Activism Fellow, where he will be trained to work on behalf of the national campaign to end the tobacco epidemic.


Youth Activism Fellows are tasked with projects to help their communities counteract tobacco industry efforts meant to reach those who are least aware they are being manipulated; namely our youth and young adults. The Fellows act as “boots on the ground” on behalf of the Truth Initiative, to ensure that tobacco policy and project needs are being met throughout the communities. 

Thirty Youth Fellows were selected for 2016, including two from Florida.
Sapp, of Anthony, Florida, is a former member of the North Marion High School Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Club. While at North Marion, he established the “Drive for Life” program to educate students about the dangers of distracted driving, a program that is still going strong. He continues to champion this cause by serving as a board member of the Florida Teen Safe Driving Coalition. 

Read More


Kick Butts Day: The Environmental Impact
March 14, 2016

As it is described on its official website,, Kick Butts Day is a “national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco”. Among the goals of the movement is to inform the public about the consequences of tobacco use and empower the next generation to make healthier choices. Taking on this mobilizing role, QuitDoc Foundation health advocates helped organize a day that the youth could get behind- a day of outdoor fun, scientific exploration, teamwork, and environmental activism!

In what the volunteers named the “Grossest Easter Egg Hunt” ever, 12 volunteers from multiple organizations including two Girl Scout Troops, Measure Up Marion: Live Tobacco Free Workgroup, and the Westport High School Key Club, banded together to clean up a favorite Ocala park. As part of the City of Ocala Leave It Better Program, volunteers worked together to clear litter from Tuscawilla Park and separated out the tobacco related materials which included cigarette butts, blunt wrappers, cigarette packs, and lighters. The tobacco related materials collected in a 2 hour span nearly filled a 55 oz container.  

Read More


Movies After Dark in The Park Send a Positive Message to Youth and Families
March 1, 2016

The City of Ocala staff are always looking to bring things to do in Marion County with concert series, special events, holiday celebrations, and now more things to do after dark. Every Friday in March, Recreation and Park will be hosting After Dark in the Park series, where families can bring their blankets and chairs and enjoy cinema in the great outdoors.

An important change to this March movie in the park series is its designation as a tobacco free event. As a sponsor, the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County along with Community Health workers with the QuitDoc Foundation have worked alongside City of Ocala staff to make the opening series tobacco free.

The designation as a tobacco free event appeals not only to protecting public health, but serves to help the environment. The State of California EPA released a report on Toxic Volatile Organic Compounds in Environmental Tobacco Smoke [1994]. In it they found that cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world leading to thousands of pounds of tobacco material put into the environment. They not only create a fire hazard in outdoor areas, but the chemicals in cigarette butts like cyanide and arsenic leak into the soil and water supply. Read More


Steeplechase Apartments offers Tobacco Free Outdoor Environment
By Sarah Damien
February 22, 2016

The management at Steeplechase Apartments is offering a tobacco free environment for their residents at their outdoor amenities. Their new policy covers the shared outdoor areas including swimming pools, playground, tennis court, basketball courts and volleyball courts.

A tobacco free policy for the shared amenities in the Steeplechase community contributes to a cleaner and healthier living environment. As reported by the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. Even a little secondhand smoke can be dangerous, especially to young lungs. These amenities, which now feature Tobacco Free Signage thanks to the Measure Up Marion initiative, are most frequently used by children and families of the community.

According to Surgeon General Reports made in the last decade, completely avoiding secondhand smoke is very hard to do. Most of us breathe it whether we know it or not. In housing complexes, secondhand smoke can travel through walls and outlets between apartment units. Just being around someone who is smoking or using Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), like e-cigs or personal vaporizers, can expose lungs to a number of harmful chemicals. The chemicals found in secondhand smoke are harmful to a body’s health and are known to cause cancer, and recent studies have found similar chemicals in the aerosol emitted by ENDS products. Smoke and ENDS aerosol exposure can also trigger breathing conditions like asthma or worsen coughing and wheezing fits. Read More


Smokeless Tobacco Use Remains High in Marion County
QuitDoc Foundation and Tobacco Free Florida are raising awareness during “Through with Chew Week”
February 3, 2016

OCALA, Fla. – QuitDoc Foundation and the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida are raising awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco, like chew and dip, during “Through With Chew Week.” This public awareness campaign was created to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco among young people and help combat this deadly addiction. “Through With Chew Week” takes place Feb. 14-20.

To raise awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use, QuitDoc Foundation and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County, are sponsoring the first annual Country Carnival to kick off the annual Southeastern Youth Fair (SEYF) in Marion County. The SEYF Country Carnival opens Friday, Feb. 19 @ 5PM, Sat. Feb 20 @ 2PM, Sun. Feb. 21 @2PM. The Southeastern Youth Fair is the longest running youth fair that operates without a midway in the United States and is the premier event for 4-H and FFA students in Marion County, Florida. The SEYF is a not-for-profit ALL-YOUTH Fair held in February of each year. Responsibility, marketing, communication, and record keeping are just a few of the life skills acquired by the exhibitors of the Fair. The fair provides a “hands on” approach to learning positive life skills, and including smokeless tobacco education will be an important part of this educational opportunity.  

Although youth cigarette smoking rates in Florida are at an all-time low, 5.9 percent of high school students in Marion County still reported current use of smokeless tobacco products in 2014, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. This number is likely higher in rural and agricultural areas of the county, and overall use is higher than the state average of 5.4 percent.

“Smokeless tobacco products contain harmful chemicals that are known to cause cancer,” said Shannon Hughes, Director of the Florida Department of Health’s Community Health Promotion. "Youth who use smokeless products are more likely to experiment with other types of tobacco. Studies have shown that adolescent boys who use smokeless tobacco have a higher risk of becoming cigarette smokers.” Read More


United States Congress Passes Child Nicotine Poisoning Protection Act; The Bill Now Goes to President Obama for His Signature
January 11, 2016

On January 11, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation requiring that liquid nicotine be sold in child-resistant packaging, consistent with Consumer Product Safety Commission standards.The Senate previously approved the legislation (the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act), which is designed to protect children from poisoning from highly concentrated vials of liquid nicotine.  The bill now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature.

"In recent years, the marketing of unregulated flavored nicotine products has led to a surge in accidental ingestion by children," said Dr. Barry Hummel, a Pediatrician and Co-Founder of the Quit Doc Foundation. "The new law will hold candy-flavored nicotine, including bubble gum and gummy bear flavored products, to the same standards as other over-the-counter drugs by requiring child-resistant packaging."

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, one teaspoon of liquid nicotine could be lethal to a small child, and smaller amounts can cause severe illness.
"In 2011, there were 271 cases of accidental nicotine ingestion reported to poison control centers," added Dr. Hummel. "That number jumped to 3,783 by 2014, a 14-fold increase. More than half of these cases involved children under the age of 6, the group most vulnerable to severe illness and death." Read More


Reaching the Community: The Great American Smokeout
By Sarah Damien, QuitDoc Foundation
November 19, 2015

Each year on the third Thursday of November, thousands of people are encouraged to go just one day without using tobacco; and what a difference a day makes. Here’s what the body goes through on a smokeless day:

It’s a message relayed to hospital employees, patients, and families during the Great American Smoke Out. The QuitDoc Foundation, Ocala Health System, and American Cancer Society partnered for a one day event to educate and provide support for the public and employees at two hospital locations.

Great American Smokeout 2015
Jennifer McKathan (American Cancer Society) and Sarah Damien (QuitDoc Foundation)
share information during the Great American Smokeout.

Among the materials given out were Quit Kits, which included information on how to sign up for counseling and group cessation classes; mints, other hard candies, and toothpicks to help get through cravings. In all, 15 kits were given out at Ocala Regional Medical Center and West Marion Hospital, and many others walked away with educational brochures and handouts. Read More


A Healthier Community at Paddock Place
Tobacco Free Outdoor Amenities Make for a Healthier Lifestyle at Local Apartment Complex.
November 18, 2015

Paddock Place Apartments has always championed their residents by striving to provide comfortable homes, quality amenities, value-added services and a strong sense of community. In 2014, Paddock Place was awarded the Community of the Year Award by the North Central Florida Apartment Association, and in 2015 the community earned Ocala Style Magazine’s Best of Ocala Award.

When Measure Up Marion partners approached Property Manager Diana Sperring about converting their outdoor amenities to tobacco free grounds she responded, “This is just the thing we need.” The new policy covers all outdoor amenities and common spaces including: the swimming pool and sun deck, the tennis courts, the picnic and grill pavilion, as well as the on-site laundry facilities.

Paddock Place

The change to tobacco free amenities is a positive move for Paddock Place, ensuring all residents may enjoy the recreational areas within the community without exposure to second-hand smoke or unsightly tobacco litter. Read More


Measure Up Marion, Shape Up Ocala, Shape Up Belleview, and Empower Your Body Nutrition Announce Tobacco-Free Changeover
Martha Vaughn, Village Crier, October 15, 2015

In its ongoing commitment to improving the lives and health of Marion County and its residents, Measure Up Marion, its partner QuitDoc Foundation, and Shape Up Ocala, Shape Up Belleview, and Empower Your Body Nutrition are leading the way. These three establishments now will have tobacco-free outdoor areas to ensure tobacco-free pleasure for its patrons. Tyla Kennedy owns and operates the establishments: Shape Up Ocala, Shape Up Belleview (opened recently), and Empower Your Body Nutrition (opened recently), smoothie and juice bar establishments, will enforce a tobacco free workplace and grounds.

Measure Up Marion!

“With the forward thinking of its owner, these juice and smoothie establishments, with Measure Up Marion have implemented a tobacco-free policy for its patrons and employees,” said Maclyn Walker, project director of Measure Up Marion. “Convinced by the health dangers of second hand smoke and other tobacco products, Tyla Kennedy was eager to make changes, both to benefit patrons and employees.”

“Tyla wanted the health benefits of tobacco-free to mirror the healthy products she offers,” said Lauren Walter, community health advocate at QuitDoc Foundation. “The changeover is going smoothly and we are thrilled that the Shape Up/Empower Your Body establishments are committed to the health of Marion County residents.”

To work with Measure Up Marion on making your restaurant tobacco-free, contact Lauren Walter at or 352.359.5383. The establishments locations and hours are: Shape Up Ocala (200 SE 1st Ave Ocala); Shape Up Belleview 5119 SE 102nd Place, Belleview, Mon-Fri 11-2pm & 6pm-8:30pm; and, Empower Your Body Nutrition, 7277 E Maricamp Rd. Mon-Fri 7 am – 8 pm, Saturday 10-2 pm.

Measure Up Marion is a coalition of health advocates and organizations dedicated to improving the lives of their neighbors in Marion County. Through increased access to healthier food choices in corner stores, concession stands and vending; tobacco-free restaurants, housing and faith communities; EBT acceptance at farmers markets; and, assistance in avoiding and managing chronic diseases through community health workers, physician multi-disciplinary teams, and patient portal access through MyHealthStory, Measure Up Marion and its partners work for improvement through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, as part of its Partners In Community Health (PICH) award.


Teen Smoking Rates at All-Time Low
E-Cigarette Use On the Rise, Cause for Concern
September 23, 2015

TALLAHASSEE – Youth cigarette smoking rates in Florida are at an all-time low according to new data released on Tuesday by the Florida Department of Health. Conventional cigarette use among Florida high school students dropped from 8.6 percent in 2013* to 6.9 percent in 2015 – a 19.7 percent change. The Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) also showed declines in other combustible and traditional smokeless products.

“Floridians should be proud of the historic progress made in the state to reduce the number of young cigarette smokers,” said Community Health Promotion Division Director Shannon Hughes. “Since voters approved the constitutional amendment to create Tobacco Free Florida, high school cigarette smoking has gone down an impressive 52.4 percent.”

This new report also marks another important, but more troubling trend. Current e-cigarette use among high school students has increased – from 5.4 percent in 2013 to 15.8 percent in 2015. Hookah use among high school students has also increased, from 8.2 percent in 2013 to 9.7 percent in 2015. Since 2009, when FYTS began tracking current hookah use, the rate has increased 26 percent. Read More

FYTS 2015 Trend Data


Bill Cousins Honored with Appointment to Tobacco Advisory Council in Tallahassee
September 14, 2015

It started in 2004 in Pennsylvania with a Clean Indoor Air Act article and meeting announcement in the Valley Independent newspaper. Bill Cousins thought that sounded interesting, since air quality was a concern of his with 6 steel mills in the area near his home. He had no idea the meeting was being chaired by two women, Vickie Oles and Anne Lail, associated with the Westmoreland (Co.) Tobacco Free Coalition. 

After the meeting, Bill went up to the women to introduce himself and briefly shared his son’s story. Paul had died just over a month prior from oral cancer that his doctors attributed to his 12 years of smoking. Vickie and Ann were immediately taken by Paul’s story. Bill also revealed that he officiated baseball and soccer games for local school sports leagues; the women saw a unique opportunity.

Bill Cousins
Bill Cousins (far right) meeting Congressman Ted Yoho in 2013

Using his relationship with local schools, Bill was asked to present Paul’s story to local youth as a way to discourage tobacco use. Paul was only 29 when he passed, leaving behind a baby girl and wife. He had been an athlete and very active in his community and died after a grueling, almost three year battle. Bill was willing to take this on and even used personal photos of his son lying in his hospital bed after undergoing many surgeries to combat the aggressive squamous cell cancer, to help underscore his message. Read More


The Freshest Grounds are Tobacco Free!
September 10, 2015

It is no secret that most restaurants are tobacco free inside, but just outside the doors has become the new place for using tobacco and nicotine devices like e-cigarettes. The QuitDoc Foundation staff on the Measure Up Marion project have been working with restaurant owners for the past few months to extinguish the smoke and vapor from restaurant entrances and patios.

Cafe Havana

It is with great pleasure to announce the first successful partnership is with a locally owned Cuban and coffee establishment, Cafe Havana which has recently signed a tobacco free grounds policy. Congratulations to the owners Luis and Laura for leading the way on this up and coming tobacco free grounds movement! You can visit Cafe Havana Monday through Friday from 7:30am – 4pm at 923 N Magnolia Ave in Ocala to congratulate their decision and to try the best café con leche in town.

Cafe Havana has also been nominated for the best locally owned restaurant by Ocala Magazine; please show your support by taking the survey and voting for Cafe Havana!

To recommend a restaurant to partner with Measure Up Marion please contact Lauren Walter at or (352)359-5383.


Mission: Not Impossible for Live Smoke Free Workgroup
September 2 , 2015

Marion County is undertaking a grand mission: the conversion of local multi-unit housing to 100% tobacco free grounds. To help move this initiative forward, QuitDoc Foundation has formed a team of residents to take up the mantle for smoke free housing.

The workgroup is taking a grassroots and boots approach towards community support: a door to door educational campaign which focuses on community health and safety. Residents work alongside managers, daughters alongside fathers, health specialists alongside the sick to spread the message: tobacco free is the way to be.

Live Smoke Free Work Group
Live Smoke Free ™ works to educate, inspire and support residents of
multi-unit housing to achieve greater health and safety in their community.

In a two pronged approach, QuitDoc Foundation reaches out to apartment managers while Live Smoke Free Workgroup members reach out to residents, both sharing educational materials and creating a community dialog about the change. Residents should be formally educated about the dangers of second and third hand smoke exposure to create more of a demand for tobacco free housing. Presenting the realistic dangers will encourage more residents to speak up about their desire for change.
Read More


Warning Labels and Child-Resistant Packaging on Liquid Nicotine Bottles
A Letter from Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong
July 22, 2015

There have been a number of media stories recently concerning the regulation of packaging for liquid nicotine intended for use in electronic cigarettes. The rapid increase of e-cigarette use by teens and the number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine is an alarming public health concern. The state of Florida urges immediate guidance from federal regulators and calls for increased vigilance from parents, businesses and e-cigarette users to keep these items away from children.

Liquid Nicotine Poisonings

Child-resistant packaging on bottles and cartridges of liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices are necessary to protect infants and children. If swallowed or absorbed through the skin, liquid nicotine can lead to serious illness or even death. In fact, the number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, according to a study published last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than half of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children under age 5. The number of calls per month involving conventional cigarettes did not show a similar increase during the same time period... Read More


There are More Smoke-Free Housing Options in Marion County!
July 17 , 2015

On May 18, 2015 residents of Rainbow Gardens Apartments in Dunnellon, Florida were sent notice by management of a brand new health measure taking effect in their new lease year.

Beginning August 2015, Rainbow Gardens will be going Tobacco Free! Property Manager Persie Folden said in a letter to residents that their priority is “…to have a healthier and safer environment for families and guests.” Outlining the hazards of secondhand smoke, fire risk, and health of their tenants explained the change.

The changes will include banning smoking from all units and common areas, as well as no smoking within 25 feet of doors, patios, breezeways, laundry rooms and offices. In total, 36 units with single renter and family unit options will be affected.

To aid with the transition, QuitDoc connected the Property Manager to free tobacco cessation classes which they hosted at their facility. To create a strong support network, the cessation program invited residents as well as their families and friends to participate... Read More


QuitDoc Expands Its Outreach in Marion County: Measure Up Marion!
June 12, 2015

One thing you can be sure of is that change will happen whether you ask for it or not. Well, we asked for it and were rewarded with an opportunity to expand our services regarding tobacco prevention and cessation in Marion County! More specifically, we are part of a group of local health and wellness organizations who worked for months to secure an award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Partnerships in Community Health (PICH) program.

This group, now called “Measure Up Marion” and led by the Heart of Florida Health Center, has been actively laying the groundwork throughout Marion County to accomplish the goals we set for improving our community’s health as related to healthy foods and beverages, connecting to medical professionals and resources, and reducing the number of tobacco users and overall exposure to second hand smoke throughout the county. In order to accomplish our part of the plan, QuitDoc has brought on two outstanding, local young professionals into the full-time positions made available through the PICH award. We’d like to introduce you to them.

Lauren Walter





Lauren Walter, an Ocala native, was already a part-time QuitDoc employee and oversaw our Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program as the Coordinator. She also worked at the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County as the Education Director and helped to connect our organizations so that we could better serve the youth there. Lauren led an innovative and exciting year of SWAT activities using her background in Theater, and the SWAT youth really responded to her creativity and passion for the work. She is bringing that innovation and passion into her new role as a Community Outreach Specialist working on restaurants and bars and faith-based facilities and campuses in regards to tobacco free policies. Having worked at a popular, local restaurant chain for years, she also has insight into the local food culture. Glad to have you aboard, Lauren!

Sarah Damien is brand new to QuitDoc, but not to working in the Marion County community. Sarah, another Ocala native, comes to us from the City of Ocala Recreation and Parks and has also been active in the Chamber and Economic Partnership events for young professionals. She currently sits on the Board for Young Professionals of Ocala Service Committee as well as the Foundation Board for the Discovery Center in Ocala. During her time with Recreation and Parks, Sarah initiated many programs on her own time and spent countless hours making sure everything was running smoothly and to her high expectations. Recently, she was given oversight of an exciting new project to develop the historic Fort King site, to which she is still offering her expertise in her free time. For QuitDoc, Sarah will be in charge of the smoke free multi-unit housing and county parks initiatives as our second full time Community Outreach Specialist. Not surprisingly, learning that part of this job would involve working with the local parks systems piqued her interest, and we are so happy to have her join our team.  Welcome, Sarah!

Sarah Damien







An Ode to the SWAT Advisor
June 10, 2015

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) has accomplished so much this year; working to establish a new flavored tobacco resolution in the Town of McIntosh, keeping our elected officials informed about tobacco issues at the annual Legislative Delegation Hearing, and demonstrating commitment to the cause through community performances and a box office flash mob. With all of what SWAT has achieved in our community, none of it would be possible without the guidance of our skilled and valued SWAT Advisors.

Phyllis Sherman, the Art teacher at Fort King Middle School in Ocala, has been a reliable and exceptional Advisor to the Fort King Middle SWAT Club. She is a terrific role model and advocate representing the best qualities of an Advisor. She is both driven and passionate as an educator and in promoting a tobacco free lifestyle.

Phyllis Sherman

“I have been the SWAT advisor at Ft. King Middle for three years.  Each year we try new ways to reach the school population.  I became a smoker because both my mother and father smoked.  My father died young at the age of 53 from a heart attack which I am sure was partly caused by his smoking.  My mother tried for years to stop and finally, at the age of 70 with failing health, finally quit.  As a young adult I smoked heavily, but realized it was a life and death activity and that I was playing with my life.  I decided to quit after smoking for ten years, but found it was much harder to do than just making the decision.  I tried three times and finally managed to get the addiction off my back. I want to help students get the information that I never had available to me.  With this information I hope they will make better choices than I and NEVER BECOME ADDICTED TO TOBACCO.”

A new addition to our SWAT Advisors was Andrez Towns who works at the Marion County Boys & Girls Club (BGC). She was an exceptional SWAT leader this year despite this being her first year learning and sharing about the SWAT approach. Her SWAT Club is like no other. SWAT at the Boys & Girls Club has become known to all of the Club’s members because of the dance and step team as well as Andrez’s popularity with the young people who go there. Her SWAT youth attended a number of local events; representing both BGC and SWAT with their dance and step routines, they also performed at health fairs, the annual Red Ribbon Kickoff event, and even a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony for a local community partner. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Marion County Boys & Girls Club! Read More


Why School Tobacco Policy Matters
By Tracy DeCubellis, April 28, 2015

The topic of tobacco use in schools has been important for popular culture and academic research throughout the years.  Rock and Roll songs about smoking in school and movies showing rebellious teens smoking on campus are part of public perception about school tobacco use.  Since Brownsville Station observed back in 1973, “everybody knows that smoking ain’t allowed in school,” why does it still happen?  That is what researchers want to know.

School Bus

A recent look at school tobacco policies in Michigan and how they affect student smoking had some interesting results as reported in the Journal of School Health.

There is a statewide initiative in Michigan that encourages schools to create a 24/7 tobacco policy that covers on and off-campus activities and applies to all students, staff, and visitors.  This is similar to the school policy being encouraged in Florida through the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida.  Using the Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the researchers looked at data reported by students. They also looked at data from 14 schools using the Michigan School Health Profiles report.  The study also looked at individual and school-based variables that they thought would influence student tobacco use.

The results of the study showed that some school policies are indeed correlated with lower student tobacco use.  The findings suggest that schools should create a school-wide anti-tobacco message and culture.  This could include being sure students know the school tobacco policy, as well as giving students the message only a small percentage of adults actually use tobacco... Read More 


Fort King Middle School Celebrates Kick Butts Day
March 18, 2015

Ms. Phyllis Sherman, Art Teacher and SWAT Advisor at Ft. King Middle School in Ocala, organized another exciting Kick Butts Day filled with activities! 

Kick Butts Day!

There was the tobacco graveyard that her SWAT students designed and built in the courtyard of their school for all their classmates to visit between classes, as well as an entire gym filled with hand-made posters and activity tables set up during PE for the students to peruse and complete a scavenger hunt-type worksheet.  All of the answers to the fill-in-the-blank tobacco trivia and facts worksheet could be found throughout the gym and every student who completed it received a Kick Butts Day bracelet or other prize and were entered into a drawing for a gift certificate provided by Ms. Sherman. 
Read More


A Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Movement...
At The Movies

March 13, 2015

Regal Cinemas Hollywood 16 is a hopping Friday night location for many young people of Marion County, and the night of Friday, March 13th was no different.  Patrons who chose this night to view a feature film witnessed an additional sort of spectacle other than just their planned movie outing.

SWAT at the Movies

At 7:00pm a group of SWAT members and allies assembled near the theatre entrance; at 7:15pm they spread out among the movie ticket lines and groups of friends meeting up. Then at 7:20pm, they all began to cough. They continued coughing rather loudly and excessively for approximately one minute. Suddenly, a brief whistle blow followed by the words “I am not a replacement, I am leader” cut through the air and silenced all the movie goers’ chatter. Then Titus Bailey, a 5th grader from Wyomina Park Elementary School, stated “I am not a replacement, I am an A/B Honor Roll student”.  Another voice rang out, “I am not a replacement, I am a courageous child”, said Alexus Ford, an 8th grader from Liberty Middle School.  “I am not a replacement, I am a basketball player”, expressed Nathanial Howard, a senior from Vanguard High School. Read More


QuitDoc Awarded Tobacco Prevention Grant for Marion County
February 9, 2015

Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation (QuitDoc) has once again been awarded a grant from the State of Florida Department of Health to continue to provide tobacco awareness and prevention programs throughout Marion County.  The programs are designed to reduce the number of teenagers who start smoking each year, to decrease the number of tobacco related deaths, and to provide information on appropriate methods to quit smoking.

The program is funded from a trust fund created with money paid to Florida as part of a settlement with the tobacco industry in 1997.   Florida sued the tobacco industry to recoup the cost of providing medical services to Florida residents that were caused by the use of tobacco.  The funding has been used to create Tobacco Free Florida, a comprehensive statewide tobacco prevention and cessation program.

“The Tobacco Free Florida program has been incredibly successful at reducing tobacco use among youth and adults in Florida,” reports Dr. Barry Hummel, a Pediatrician who co-founded QuitDoc.  “Use of traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, and spit tobacco are now at historic lows in the state among all age groups.”
Read More

2014 FYTS Youth Rates


Marion County Youth Tobacco Use Rates are at All-Time Lows!
February 3, 2015

The Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) is administered annually in every county in Florida and is used to evaluate the impact of Tobacco Free Florida, the state’s program to prevent and reduce tobacco use. In Marion County, QuitDoc has been the grantee of Tobacco Free Florida since 2012 and was just awarded the grant funding for the next three years, through 2018. The Florida Departments of Children and Families, Education, Health, and Juvenile Justice have co-sponsored the FYTS annually for the past 16 years.

County level data is collected every even-numbered year, and the results from the 2014 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey were recently published. There is a lot to celebrate in Marion County! The Tobacco Free Partnership, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), and community partners who support the tobacco prevention program have been hard at work educating people, promoting tobacco cessation, and reducing secondhand smoke exposure by advocating for new policies throughout the county.

Marion FYTS Data

Since 2010, Marion County middle school students have reported a significant decrease in tobacco use for all areas, including cigarettes, cigars, smokeless, and all types of tobacco combined. Tobacco use is also declining across the board for high school students in Marion. The biggest declines were seen in cigarette use for both middle and high school students. The percentages of middle and high school students who reported exposure to secondhand smoke, mostly in the home, also declined from 2010 to 2014. Read More


Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County Promotes Tobacco Cessation During the Great American Smoke Out
November 21, 2014

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County (TFP) participated in the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smoke Out (GASO) event by providing a number of workplaces with GASO posters and postcards as well as Quitline information for their work sites, and setting up educational tables in a few locations to help spread the word.  The Marion County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, who is a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist, was also on hand at two locations to provide cessation information and advice. 

GASO Banner

The North Central office of the American Cancer Society partnered with Ocala Health and the TFP at tables in the Ocala Regional Medical Center and West Marion Community Hospital cafeterias during the busy lunch hour to provide staff, patients, and families with tobacco cessation information and resources.

“Ocala Health is proud to host another year of the Great American Smoke Out with our local partners, Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County and American Cancer Society,” shared  Hayley Creasey, the Service Line Director for Oncology and General Surgery at Ocala Health.  “Though it is an ongoing effort, GASO is a great opportunity for us to bring experts onsite to highlight the importance of tobacco cessation to our employees, patients and families and ensure they are armed with local and national resources.  We have made extra efforts by also having Tobacco Free Campuses at both Ocala Regional and West Marion Community Hospitals. We are focused on not only our patients’ health and wellbeing, but also our employees’ and are glad to have these strong partnerships that make these efforts possible.” Read More
GASO Table


A Big Win in a Small Town for Students Working Against Tobacco
By Lauren Walter, Marion County SWAT Coordinator
November 13, 2014

The Town of McIntosh held its monthly city council meeting on November 13th where they opened the floor to three young guest speakers.

Donnay Alston, Donovan Smith, both from Osceola Middle and Jayda McCosker from Fort King Middle were invited to address the council regarding a young person’s perspective on flavored tobacco. The youth brought with them examples of just how dangerous these products can be. For example, mints that are presented comparably to and easily confused with tobacco orbs, likewise, beef jerky in orange packaging with peach flavored snuff.  Jayda, eleven years old, had seen young people practice this addicting habit before and explained to the members of the community who were present in the meeting, “even though it’s jerky, kids will put it in their lip just like it is real tobacco.” The council was surprised by the resemblances, yet encouraged by the youth so much as to make a change in their town.

McIntosh Town Council

The 2012 Surgeon General Report states that tobacco products are being intentionally designed to become more aesthetically and flavorfully pleasing than ever before. It is documented on that a tobacco executive has even made the suggestion, "Many people felt that younger chewers would be attracted to products with less tobacco taste. For example, it was suggested that we investigate the possibility of borrowing study data from the company which produces "Life Savers" as a basis for determining which flavors enjoy the widest appeal." Read More


Tobacco Industry Whistle-Blower, Dr. Victor DeNoble, Visits Marion County
September 15, 2014

On Monday, September 15, the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County and the Marion County SWAT youth hosted presentations by Victor J. DeNoble, Ph.D. at the PACE Center for Girls, Community Council Against Substance Abuse, and at the Boys & Girls Club of Marion in Ocala.

Victor J. DeNoble, Ph.D. has been giving presentations to youth and adults for nearly two decades.  His compelling story starts when he was recruited to develop a safer cigarette for Philip Morris in the 1980’s. In his secret research laboratory, he studied nicotine’s effects on the central nervous system and was successful in developing a nicotine substitute that did not elevate the heart rate; however, attempts to publish his work were suppressed by Philip Morris. Dr. DeNoble was eventually fired, his laboratory was shuttered, and his research was seized.

In 1994, after a decade of being silenced by a secrecy agreement, he became the first whistle blower to testify before Congress and was a key witness in the federal government’s investigation into the tobacco industry’s research practices and misinformation campaigns... Read More

Dr. Victor DeNoble


Marion County SWAT Update: Welcome to Our New SWAT Coordinator Lauren Walter!
September 13, 2014

Marion County has a new Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Coordinator, Lauren Walter, who is a part time employee of the Boys and Girls Club of Marion and directs their Education Program.

Manette Cheshareck, the Marion County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, is very excited about the direction that the Marion SWAT program is headed.  “With Lauren joining our team this year in Marion County, we have added a valuable component to our SWAT program," said Cheshareck.  "She lives in Ocala and has many connections in the community.  She was recommended by her former middle school principal who happens to sit on the Tobacco Free Partnership’s Advisory Council.  Lauren is dedicated to helping youth achieve their fullest potentials and brings a lot of energy and excitement to our SWAT program.” 

In just the past few weeks, Marion County SWAT has added new SWAT clubs at Dunnellon High School and the Boys and Girls Club of Marion in Ocala, with at least one more high school potentially interested.  Welcome aboard, Lauren! 

Marion SWAT

Marion County SWAT youth also attended the Region 2 SWAT Training at Thrasher-Horne Conference Center in Orange Park, FL on Saturday, September 13th.  Two young men from the Boys & Girls Club of Marion in Ocala attended as first time SWAT members and were very impressed with the activities and materials presented... Read More 


Reddick Town Council in Marion County passes a Candy Flavored Tobacco Resolution
June 5 , 2014

The Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT Club of Marion County are happy to announce that the Town of Reddick in Marion County unanimously passed a Candy Flavored Tobacco (CFT) resolution on Thursday, June 5th at their monthly Town Council meeting. 

This process started in 2013, with SWAT students from Fort King Middle School who attended the December Reddick Town Council meeting and helped to educate the Council members about flavored tobacco advertising and product placement, as well as the many flavors used to entice youth to try tobacco.  One youth also shared her grandmother’s history of chronic illnesses due to tobacco use as a reason for trying to help other youth avoid becoming addicted to nicotine found in tobacco products. Many flavored tobacco products are considered “starter products” for new users. 

After a few more visits from SWAT members and Tobacco Free Partnership representatives, the Town Council was ready to make a decision. 

The passing of a Candy Flavored Tobacco resolution in the Town of Reddick brings Marion County one step closer to having all of its municipalities represented on the Department of Health’s map of Florida which depicts existing CFT resolutions across the state... Read More

Flavored Tobacco Samples

Residential Buildings in Marion County Are Going Smoke-Free
Policies Protect Residents From Secondhand Smoke and Smoking-Related Fires
June 2 , 2014

OCALA – Smoke-free multiunit housing, a growing trend throughout the country, has made its way to Marion County.
Several residential properties in Marion County have implemented smoke-free policies. The growing list of smoke-free properties in the area includes:

  • Evangeline Booth Garden Apartments, 2921 NE 14th St., Ocala
  • Heritage Oaks of Ocala, 2820 SW 34th St., Ocala
  • Trinity Villas, Inc., 3728 NE 8th Place, Ocala

"The Salvation Army is totally opposed to the production, marketing and use of tobacco," said Milo Ayen, the Facilities Director of Evangeline Booth Garden Apartments, which is owned by the Salvation Army. "Nicotine is amongst the most addictive substances known.”

Heritage Oaks

 “The Salvation Army accepts the overwhelming evidence presented by medical science of the injurious effects of tobacco on the body,” adds Major George Patterson, Corps Officer of the Ocala Salvation Army.  “This relates to both those who smoke and to those subject to 'passive smoking' through their having to breathe in the smoke exhaled by smokers.” Read More


Florida Teens Win Top Awards Among
Youth Advocates Working Against Tobacco

Two Florida High School Students Were Honored in the Nation’s Capital
May 22 , 2014

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Magi Linscott, a Santa Rosa County high school student and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) youth advocate, was named the National Youth Advocate of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. This is the highest award among the country’s top youth advocates working against tobacco.

Chandler Ash from Gilchrist County was named the Southern Region Youth Advocate of the Year. Both Florida teens were honored in Washington, D.C., on May 15 along with three other U.S. regional winners and a group winner. More than 400 public health, political, civic and business leaders attended the 18th annual gala to recognize these young leaders.

The Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor outstanding young people who are among today's most effective leaders in tobacco control. These youth have fought hard to protect their generation from the dangers of tobacco by promoting tobacco prevention legislation, exposing tobacco marketing to kids, and keeping their peers from using tobacco... Read More

Florida Youth Advocates of the Year


Marion County Teens Tell Big Tobacco:
We are Not "Replacements"

March 21, 2014

Ocala, Fla. – 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, Fort King Middle School’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Club 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.

Capping off a week of anti-tobacco themed events, Fort King Middle School held a Kick Butts Day Fair in the school gymnasium. Over 20 SWAT students helped plan the events and hosted booths including a graffiti board, poster designing contest, what’s in a cigarette, trivia games, lung displays, as well as rec games like a “tobacco trash” toss, “kick butts” kicking bag, and ring toss.  This is the second year for the club and for the event at the school. Teachers and students alike remarked that it was a fun, educational way to learn about the dangers of tobacco use and gain confidence in fighting back... Read More

Fort King MS Kick Butts Day Event


Local Tobacco Free Partnership Visits the Kiwanis Club of Ocala
January 17 , 2014

On January 17th, the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County (TFP) presented a tobacco education talk on flavored tobacco and other tobacco industry marketing tactics to the Kiwanis Club of Ocala, the largest Kiwanis gathering in Marion County. 

At this meeting, the newly elected Marion County Sheriff was inducted as a member of the Club; other dignitaries present included the Chair of the Public School Board, President-Pro Tem of the Ocala City Council, the Chief of Ocala Police Department, and about 50 others including the TFP Advisory Council member and Kiwanis Trustee who arranged for the meeting.

This tobacco education presentation was very interactive with many participants asking insightful questions and a few shared stories of loved ones who are battling nicotine addiction or who have personally beat their addiction to nicotine.  

 Many of the participants were stunned to learn the extent to which the tobacco industry uses flavorings and product placement to entice new users.  Samples of flavored tobacco products were displayed to show the range of items that are currently sold and within reach of youth, especially in convenience stores.  The participants were informed of the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) clubs that currently do peer education in Marion County and who assist with local tobacco surveillance activities... Read More

Candy or Tobacco?


The Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County Celebrates the Annual Great American Smokeout
November 21, 2013

The Great American Smokeout (GASO) was celebrated in Marion County this year by local businesses large and small. Thousands of employees, their families, and loved ones received free tobacco cessation resources as a result.  The Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County provided hardcopy GASO postcards, posters, e-cards, and pens for sharing with their employees and work site visitors. 

GASO Postcard

The work sites promoting GASO included ClosetMaid, the Marion County Board of County Commissioners, the Marion County Public School District, The Windsor of Ocala, Interfaith Emergency Services, Lake Weir High School, Ocala Regional Medical Center, Munroe Regional Medical Center, and RBOI (Robert Boissoneault Oncology Institute).

These work sites have been very active in promoting tobacco cessation and tobacco free policies at their locations.  This is a mutual benefit as the employees and their families receive free access to tobacco cessation resources and materials, and the employers save money by reducing health care costs as employees are able to incorporate tobacco free lifestyle practices into their daily routines and reap the health benefits... Read More


Marion County Florida Passes Ordinance to Restrict Youth Access and Exposure to Electronic Cigarettes
November 19, 2013

On November 19, 2013 the Board of County Commissioners in Marion County, Florida, voted unanimously to pass an ordinance to reduce youth access and exposure to electronic cigarettes.

The ordinance prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18, places the products behind the counter requiring retailer-assisted sales, and bans the use of the devices in places where traditional tobacco is currently banned under the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act.

Marion BOCC
Members of Students Working Against Tobacco meet the Marion County Commissioners.

During the final reading of the ordinance, there was plenty of time for public comment, as well as discussion among the county commissioners.

Several members of the Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter presented on the potential harm of electronic cigarettes, and the fact that there has been a sharp rise in use among middle and high schools students nationally and in Florida... Read More


Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco Celebrate Red Ribbon Week
October 23 , 2013

Marion Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) participated in the Annual Red Ribbon Week Kickoff event October 23 at the Ocala Police Department. 

This was second year for the event which is put on by the Marion County Children’s Alliance.  Several hundred local families attended the event which featured a number of booths and games, as well as Carlos “Los 1” Ramirez.

The Red Ribbon Campaign was started when drug traffickers in Mexico City murdered DEA Agent Kiki Camerena in 1985. This began the tradition of displaying a Red Ribbon as a symbol of intolerance towards the use of drugs. The Red Ribbon Kickoff is an annual event to present a unified and visible commitment towards the creation of a DRUG-FREE America... Read More

Red Ribbon Week


Frequently-Asked Questions About E-Cigarettes
By Tracy DeCubellis, M.S., Gilchrist County Tobacco Prevention Specialist
September 20, 2013

Recently, many people have come to me with questions about an emerging product on the market called e-cigarettes.  There has been a lot of confusion about e-cigarettes, and most people have limited information gathered from advertisements or word of mouth from friends. I have put together the most frequently asked questions about e-cigarettes, along with the answers, to inform communities with currently updated information. 

What is an e-cigarette?
An e-cigarette is a battery-powered nicotine delivery device that contains a cartridge filled with what the manufacturers often call “liquid”.  This “liquid” often includes candy flavoring, nicotine, and chemicals to create a “vapor”.  Most e-cigarette companies offer cartridges of differing nicotine levels, although no testing has been conducted to verify those claims. 

E-Cigarette Components

Are e-cigarettes considered tobacco?
The FDA has jurisdiction over tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, and has stated the intent to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product... Read More


The Summer of 2013 was Busy for The Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County!

The Marion County Tobacco Free Partnership has been very active during the first quarter of the new fiscal year.

Rep Ted Yoho
From L to R: SWAT Youth Miles Field, Marion County SWAT Coordinator Jessie King,
U.S. Representative Ted Yoho, and Youth Tobacco Prevention Educator Bill Cousins.

Over the summer, we spoke with elected officials and local civic groups and met a lot of new people at a variety of health fairs and educational events who have added their voices and experience to our cause.  Here are a few of the activities we participated in:  Belleview Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Presentation, Jordan Court Apartments Tobacco Education, Break the Silence on Violence Community Outreach Event in Silver Springs Shores, PACE Center for Girls Tobacco Education, Dunnellon Boys and Girls Club Summer Camp Tobacco Education, Heritage Oaks Apartments of Ocala Tobacco Education, Parkside Apartments Community Health Fair, Ocala Rotary Club luncheon presentation, PACE Center for Girls Ribbon Cutting Ceremony (congrats on the beautiful new location in downtown Ocala’s Madison Commons!), Congressman Yoho’s Town Hall meeting in Dunnellon, and Marion County Public School District’s Annual Wellness Conference presentation.


Marion County SWAT Clubs Look to Expand During the 2013-2014 School Year

The 2013-2104 SWAT school year has begun! Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) is putting the finishing touches on a partnership with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to expand both messages.  The SADD Program is part of the Marion County Children’s Alliance.

The mission of SADD is “to provide students with the best prevention tools possible to deal with the issues of underage drinking, other drug use, risky and impaired driving, and other destructive decisions”.  This fits closely in line with SWAT’s mission to mobilize, educate and equip Florida youth to revolt against and de-glamorize Big Tobacco by uniting empowered youth working towards a tobacco free future. We look forward to equipping and empowering more youth throughout Marion County.  The SADD/SWAT collaboration will be introduced this year to three middle schools and two high schools in Marion County... Read More


SWAT Students from Marion County Contribute to "Who is the Target", a Short Film on Youth Tobacco Marketing
April 24, 2013

Students from six counties in North Central Florida joined forces to write and produce "Who is the Target", a short film that focuses on the use of flavored products as a youth marketing strategy by tobacco companies.

Fourteen students from Alachua, Clay, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy, and Marion Counties were asked to contribute facts and information on the issue of flavored tobacco products that are not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The students then recorded the information at a make-shift studio. Marion County SWAT students Keyon Young, Bailey Horne, and Courtney Battisti participated in the project... Read More


Marion County Commissioners Pass a Resolution Asking Retailers to Stop the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products That Target Youth
April 16, 2013

On Tuesday, April 16th the Marion County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to pass Resolution 13-R-106 titled “URGING TOBACCO RETAILERS TO STOP THE SALE AND MARKETING OF FLAVORED TOBACCO PRODUCTS IN MARION COUNTY, FL”.

This resolution, emphasizing the importance of keeping flavored tobacco products and marketing away from youth, was the culmination of much hard work done by members of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County over the past months.  As a result of the vote, Marion County joined a statewide movement in which counties and municipalities have asked retailers to voluntarily stop the sale of flavored tobacco products marketed to underage youth... Read More


Members of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion
County Share Their Thoughts on Tobacco Prevention
with Congressman Ted Yoho
April 4, 2013

Freshman Congressman Ted Yoho held a special town hall meeting as part of his first major in-district return after 10 weeks in Washington, DC. 

Cindy Mulvey and Art Konstantino, active members of the Tobacco Free Partnerships in both Marion and Levy Counties, were participants in the crowd and had front row seats!
Read More


Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation Moves Annual Tobacco Summit to Ocala, Florida for 2013

Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation is hosting its 5th Annual Tobacco Summit on Friday, June 28th, 2013 at the College of Central Florida in Ocala.  We are excited to be hosting this annual event in Marion County, as Quit Doc became the new fiscal agent for the Marion County tobacco grant funding through the DOH's Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida as of July 1, 2012... Read More


Marion County SWAT Youth Celebrate Kick Butts Day
March 18-22, 2013

Students across Marion County took part in Kick Butts Day events the week of March 18, 2013.  Kick Butts Day, an annual event created by Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, is a day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco at more than 1,300 events across the United States and around the world. 

Spearheaded by the efforts of SWAT Advisor Ms. Phyllis Sherman, students at Fort King Middle School were treated to a week of activities related to tobacco prevention and cessation... Read More 


Marion County Students Attend Statewide SWAT Conference

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members from throughout Florida converged in Orlando for a three-day conference July 24-26, 2012. The training conference provided students with an opportunity to network. The students also elected their Youth Advisory Board for the upcoming year. Marion County was represented by Briana Muti and Keyon Young.... Read More