A new provider for youth tobacco prevention is in Hernando County. CivCom is an organization that is working to end nicotine addiction and improve health equity in partnership with tobacco-free coalitions in Florida. They currently offer a variety of services to the public, including youth. They’re funded by the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida and are actively serving 24 counties in Florida. There are three policy areas they’re pursuing in collaboration with the Hernando County Tobacco Intervention Partnership, a local coalition of community members who share CivCom’s vision of a tobacco-free future. I met with Dale Watson with CivCom to learn more about their policy initiatives. Dale is the Tobacco Policy Manager and works alongside her counterpart, Jewel McNaughton, Community Engagement Specialist, who oversees the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program. For clarification, the services that CivCom offers apply to all tobacco products, including cigarettes and vaping products.
The first policy area works to improve access to cessation services, so that anyone who wants to quit using tobacco/vaping products has access to the tools and resources they need to do that. Dale stated, “We are here to establish policies with social service organizations and federally qualified health centers to help them establish an electronic referral system that will allow them to refer individuals to cessation services through the Quit Your Way program.” To learn more about the free tools and cessation resources available, visit TobaccoFreeFlorida.com.
The second policy area works to raise awareness of tobacco product marketing at the point of sale. One of the activities that will be completed in Hernando County through this policy area is retailer surveillance. Dale stated, “There’s over 220 tobacco retailers in the county. We’ll be going into 83 of those places to sample and survey them to see exactly what’s going on with the sale of their tobacco products. This also takes into account how they display their tobacco products as well. I want to emphasize that this is not an attack on retailers, but is used to promote retailer awareness of tobacco marketing tactics that impact our youth.” For example, gas stations or convenience stores may unknowingly place tobacco products next to children’s toys or candy, which can be destructive because youth see these products and normalize them as acceptable.
The third policy works with the school district to help make improvements to their tobacco policy and address issues of tobacco use and vaping among youth. One of these efforts is through the SWAT program. Nearly every week a new student is caught with a vaping device within the schools. Dale stated, “Right now we have a community-based SWAT club, but hope to expand the program into local middle and high schools.” The SWAT program is an evidence-based, statewide tobacco control program that works to change social norms associated with tobacco. They do this by advocating for change in local policies that affect how tobacco is marketed, how it is sold, and where it can be used. SWAT members participate in a wide range of activities including community education and outreach, public speaking, data collection, and media advocacy.
Educating our youth on the effects of tobacco and vaping should be on the top of our priority list. So many teens don’t understand the negative mental and physical effects of tobacco and vaping, but yet they take part in it. CivCom and the Tobacco Intervention Partnership are here to educate and help our youth create a healthier future. To learn more about the partnership and the services they offer or to get involved please visit their website at https://www.TobaccoInterventionPartnership.com