News and Events

Indian River County Teens Tell Big Tobacco:
We are Not “Replacements”

March 19, 2014

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, Indian River County’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Clubs 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.

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Indian River County's focus this year is to increase the number of youth that do not use tobacco. The Partnership encouraged the County's SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) students to recognize Kick Butts Day, emphasizing the tobacco industry's deceitful marketing tactics, especially flavored tobacco products that targets kids. 

The Indian River County Board of County Commissioners acknowledged the hard work of SWAT and the Tobacco Free Partnership by issuing a Proclamation recognizing Kick Butts Day.  The Kick Butts Day Proclamation helped  to spread the students' anti-tobacco message to County Commissioners and other adults in the community. The Proclamation was accepted by members of the Tobacco Free Partnership on behalf of SWAT students who were in school during the Commission meeting.

IRC Commission

“The Partnership is proud of the way SWAT youth are opposing big tobacco's marketing tactics,” said Leslie Spurlock, the Tobacco Prevention Specialist in Indian River County.  “They are telling the truth about tobacco through peer presentations, discussions, and handouts, and in the process they are recruiting new SWAT members. The kids appreciate and need the support of adults who hold the key to tougher tobacco control laws that will save their generation.”

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 Indan River 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.”

The fact is that nine out of 10 smokers start by age 18.  If current smoking rates continue, 5.6 million U.S. children alive today who are younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely as a result of smoking.

For more information on the work of the Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT in Indian River County, contact Leslie Spurlocl at