Florida's Students Working Against Tobacco Receive International Award for Advocacy
June 10, 2019
Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), Florida’s youth-led statewide organization, is one of six individuals and groups to be honored with a 2019 World No Tobacco Day award for their Not A Lab Rat campaign.
In 2018, SWAT launched the Not A Lab Rat campaign in response to the epidemic-level spike in youth e-cigarette use around the country and in Florida.1 The statewide initiative seeks to correct misconceptions about the health consequences related to use of e-cigarettes and urges Florida youth to declare that they will not be test subjects in the vaping industry’s long-term experiment.
Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) awards winners to recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of the policies and measures contained in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The WHO celebrates World No Tobacco Day each year on May 31 to raise awareness of the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.
Osceola High School rising Senior, Allyssa Williams, Statewide YAB member (Region 3) helped create the “Not A Lab Rat” Campaign along with her YAB peers. When told about the award, this is what Allyssa had to say “That’s amazing! It is wonderful that our campaign has been recognized. I am honored to be a part of the Youth Advocacy Board for the past few years. This YAB term however, it was a pleasure to expand the “Not A Lab Rat” Campaign by setting an official day of awareness, making it a new tobacco observance day and to have all counties all over Florida start to implement the new campaign into their schools and communities to bring awareness to the epidemic rise in e-cigarette use among youth, encourage youth to stand up against Big Tobacco and the e-cigarette industry, and to push for change within their communities. It is a great feeling when we see all of our hard work come to fruition.”
For decades, SWAT has worked diligently to mobilize, educate, and equip Florida youth in revolting against and de-glamorizing the tobacco industry. SWAT coordinates its efforts through a Youth Advocacy Board (YAB), a 16-member board that consists of SWAT members elected by their peers. The youth leaders elected to the YAB develop statewide initiatives to support prevention efforts and provide web-based and face-to-face trainings to their peers in support of local and statewide advocacy work.
In Osceola County, local SWAT members promoted the Not A Lab Rat campaign by celebrating a day to bring awareness to e-cigarette use among youth (especially Juuls), encourage youth to stand up against Big Tobacco and the e-cigarette industry, and to push for change within their communities. The SWAT youth went into classrooms and educated students and teachers, made laminated educational posters that were hung all around campus, as well as informational handouts that educated on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes and Juuls. There was a petition to ban all flavored tobacco from Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids that the SWAT youth had all students and staff sign. PSA’s were on the announcements throughout the day to inform students/staff on the myths and facts on ENDS. The SWAT youth had a table display set up with models, educational information and interactive games for students/staff that educated them on the dangers of tobacco, ENDS, second/third hand smoke, and smokeless tobacco. There were photo ops with props for students to take their pics and post to social media. The SWAT youth also had ‘Not A Lab Rat’ postcards for students to write on declaring their resistance. Each student took a photo with their Not A Lab Rat postcard and posted it on social media to bring awareness!
Since the launch of Not A Lab Rat in October, the campaign has been used in just about everything SWAT does. The message is very relevant for the youth and they continue to spread awareness. They have used the campaign at many events in Osceola County such as: Vive Tu Vida! Hispanic Heritage Festival at Horizon Middle School; Marydia Community Fall Festival; Kissimmee Festival of Lights Parade; YOUTHFIT Basketball and Cheerleader Camp; Osceola High School “Talent Against Tobacco” Talent Show; Osceola Sheriffs Community Appreciation Day; “Kickin’ it with SWAT” kickball game at Renaissance Charter of Poinciana; SWAT Advocacy Days in Tallahassee; Pinellas County Sandblast; Presentation at the Ripple Effect: Youth Conference hosted by Help Now of Osceola, Inc.; and the Osceola County Tobacco Free Partnership Meetings.
About Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT)
SWAT is Florida’s statewide youth organization working to mobilize, educate and equip Florida youth to revolt against and de-glamorize Big Tobacco and the e-cigarette industry. SWAT is a united movement of empowered youth working towards a tobacco free future.