News and Events

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. 

Two SWAT youth gave a presentation “Tobacco 2.0, Making Tobacco History” that covered where tobacco prevention is heading in the future and highlighted some of the most recent changes.  The presenters highlighted CVS Health’s decision to no longer stock or sell tobacco products.  Many students shared how their SWAT Clubs were thanking local CVS pharmacies for that great change.

The presentation also highlighted all of the counties in Florida that have adopted electronic cigarette policies including Marion County.  The passage of the State of Florida’s age restriction on electronic cigarettes was cheered, but the need for stricter regulation on advertising and the use of flavored nicotine products was also noted. 

All of the attending SWAT youth participated in Table Top discussions on topics that matter to SWAT. 

The table top discussion on “Support Matters” helped SWAT youth identify different types of support that are important for a successful SWAT chapter.  The support of Community partners and decision-makers support is required to pass local policy changes that can reduce Big Tobacco influence on youth and to protect them from secondhand smoke.  Media support is also important to get the message out, including press releases and to invite the media to SWAT events.

Tabletop Discussions 

The “Interaction Matters” table top discussion helped participants understand that it is important for SWAT youth to share the tobacco facts, and to have fun with it to keep it interesting for the new recruits and to build support from the community.

The “Trending Matters” was a table top discussion that covered some of the alternative tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes and hookah.  The SWAT youth discussed why they need to educate other SWAT youth and community members about these products, to continue to research the laws related to these products, and to monitor local use rates that have been increasing since such products have been introduced into the market. 

Other important Table Top topics were “Meeting Matters” and “Legal Matters”.

Donnay Alston, a 13 year old from Osceola Middle School, said that he would tell friends that SWAT is a “fun and amazing program that is really educational, too.  I became more aware of the real dangers of smoking.”   

For more information on the Marion County SWAT Program, contact Lauren Walter at