News and Events

Definition of Ad·vo·ca·cy:  The Act or Process of Supporting a Cause or Proposal
By Leslie Spurlock
December 11, 2018

This story is about what can be achieved by advocating for something you believe in.

Several months ago, Beth Dingee, a Tobacco Free Partnership member, Kayla Hershberger and Genevieve Presti, students from Indian River County’s SWAT Chapter, met with each of Indian River’s five County Commissioners to advocate for smoke and aerosol free parks and recreation areas. They asked Commissioners to end smoking and vaping at all the County’s parks.

Commissioners learned a lot about why eliminating tobacco from parks and recreation areas is a good idea. The students told Commissioners how secondhand smoke and aerosol from vaping contain some of the same toxic chemicals and nicotine, and that it is harmful to humans and the environment. It was evident these girls knew the consequences of secondhand smoke/aerosol and were passionate about the need for clean air, especially for children and wildlife who have no say about whether people smoke or vape near them.

Additionally, cigarette butts are harmful to the environment and are the number one littered item in Florida and the world. Tobacco from cigarette butts leaches toxins into soil and waterways. Over one million cigarette butts were collected from U.S. beaches and inland waterways during the Annual International Coastal Clean-up.

Commissioners were so impressed by these youth advocates that SWAT was invited to return with a presentation at a future public meeting. Miss Genevieve Presti from Sebastian River Middle School stepped forward with her “Why Tobacco Free Parks” presentation at the County Commission meeting held on December 11, 2018. Her presentation and advocacy generated a discussion among commissioners that resulted in several ideas about how to move forward with a policy and to educate the public about the harms of smoking and vaping.

Sometimes advocacy inspires others to also support your cause. Mr. Harry Howe, Mayor of Vero Beach stepped up at the meeting and requested the County coordinate with and include the City of Vero Beach beaches in any policy moving forward. By unanimous vote Commissioners will coordinate with the City of Vero Beach in a future policy, asked SWAT for educational links and an educational video that can be used on the County’s website, and instructed staff to draft a Resolution that will request people not smoke or vape in parks.

Advocacy puts SWAT youth one step closer to achieving tobacco free parks for the whole community.