News and Events

Indian River County SWAT Clubs Celebrate Black History Month
February 28, 2023

The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) club at Indian River Charter High School (IRCHS) celebrated Black History Month throughout February by hosting a movie night for a Friday Night Done Right. The SWAT members wanted to celebrate Black History Month by educating their fellow students about the dark history of the tobacco industry. The club decided to host a screening for the Black Lives / Black Lungs documentary, which explains the marketing and the targeting of the African American population by the tobacco industry. This film was shown to other SWAT clubs throughout Indian River County, which led to some great discussions to support the theme of Black History Month.

The tobacco industry has exploited the African American population by getting them hooked on tobacco. In 2017, nearly 90 percent of the African American population used menthol cigarettes, which is no coincidence (Truth Initiative [TI], 2017). Menthol cigarettes make it more difficult for individuals to quit smoking (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], n.d.). Nicotine is the addictive element in cigarettes but can be enhanced when combined with menthol by affecting the brain, making tobacco products increasingly addictive (CDC, n.d.). Black Lives / Black Lungs highlights this issue and discusses how the tobacco industry targeted specific events and advertised tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes to attract new smokers.

SWAT members at IRCHS took the initiative through collaboration by hosting this event with the IRCHS Multicultural Club to help spread the word of this event throughout the school and bring refreshments to go along with the event. In addition to showing the documentary, the SWAT members hosted a panel that could answer any additional questions the students had at the documentary's conclusion by providing necessary information to educate them about the dangers of tobacco.

IRCHS recognized this Friday Night Done Right as a cultural event for their students. The cultural significance of Black Lives / Black Lungs gave students an excellent opportunity to learn more about the dangers of tobacco while also fulfilling a school requirement. At IRCHS, students are required to attend a specific number of cultural events throughout the year to stay enrolled.

Black Lives / Black Lungs leaves students with hope and resiliency to help fight back against the tobacco industry by showing the progress made in recent years. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed banning menthol from being a defining flavor in cigarettes (Food and Drug Administration [FDA], 2022). This proposal by the FDA is a step in the right direction, but plenty of work still needs to be done. In 2022, over 18.5 million people smoked menthol cigarettes ages 12 and older (FDA, 2022). The awareness that was spread by this documentary hopes to spark change for the future by inspiring our youth to fight back against big tobacco.

SWAT clubs give students the opportunity to take action and become active in their communities to spread awareness to deglamorize and educate others about tobacco (SWAT Florida, n.d.). By hosting this Friday Night Done Right, the SWAT club at IRCHS spread the word to fellow students about how the tobacco industry operates and inspired our youth to get involved in bringing the fight to big tobacco.