News and Events

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.

Fort King MS Kick Butts Day Event

“Is this the first time we’ve done this?” asked Alexis, a first year member of Fort King Middle School SWAT. “These events are so fun; we should do them every month!”

For each smoking-related death, at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers each day. These young people rarely consider the long-term health consequences of smoking when they start. Because of nicotine, a highly addictive drug, three out of four youth continue smoking well into adulthood, often with serious and even deadly consequences. In fact, about half of long-term smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related causes.

“Events like Kick Butts Day help youth understand that they are the targets of the tobacco industry,” said Dr. Barry Hummel of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, which coordinates the Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT in Marion County. “Nothing is more eye-opening to a teenager than to realize that they are being manipulated into making a bad decision, a decision that will have life-long consequences.  Sadly, teenagers still make up 85% of new tobacco users each and every year because of those impulsive decisions.”

“Youth have always been a target for the tobacco industry,” said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Shannon Hughes. “Numerous internal tobacco industry documents reveal that the tobacco companies perceived young people as an important target. They developed products, like flavored tobacco, and marketing campaigns aimed at teens.”

For more information on the Marion County SWAT Program, contact Jessie King at