BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Charles Bethune is the new Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) coordinator at the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County.
The Mainland High School and Bethune-Cookman University graduate has been working to establish Volusia County SWAT clubs for the 2014-2015 school year at local Volusia County middle schools.
SWAT is Florida’s statewide youth organization whose mission is to mobilize, educate and equip Florida youth to reject and de-glamorize tobacco use.
“I lost my grandparents at a time in life from tobacco use that was hard on mother. Her mother died at about 58 years old and I lost my grandfather at about 62,” Bethune shared.
“My father today is 92, will be 93 in November. I lost my mother at 83, and neither one of them was a smoker. That right there shows me that if you aren’t using the product, your longevity can be extended.”
Although the school year is just getting back into full swing, Bethune says that many of the Volusia County middle schools are already on board and standing by ordinances given from cities within the county that take a stand against tobacco use in youth and especially against the sale of flavored tobacco products.
Involving the county
“We address the county council and have been very successful with the number of resolutions and ordinances that are already in place,” Bethune noted.
Edgewater, Oak Hill, Debary, Ponce Inlet and Pierson are the remaining cities yet to create a flavored tobacco resolution that have not come on board as of yet taking a stand against the products.
“We have eight schools that have engaged themselves in the process of reaching out to their communities and addressing the tobacco ordinances that we are trying to put in place. The kids are very excited about the role that they will play in getting those resolutions resolved,” Bethune shared.
“We try to bring about awareness of what smoking, both sidestream and mainstream smoke presents.”
Mainstream smoke refers specifically to the smoke that a smoker inhales and then exhales, while sidestream smoke refers to the smoke that wafts off the end of a lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe.
Looks like candy
Flavored tobacco products can be seen on shelves of convenience stores nationwide. Opponents of these products say that although purchasers have to be 18 years old to buy the product, it is marketed to children and younger teens.
Flavored tobacco products are offered in flavors such as pineapple, tropical passion, cherry and bubblegum and wrapped in colorful, shiny packaging, making it more appealing to young people. If placed in a bag of candy, the wrappers blend in with all the other packages.
“We are fiercely committed to preventing the tobacco industry from addicting another generation of smokers,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, in a statement.
In addition to the flavored products, there are electronic or e-cigarettes and hookah bars. An e-cigarette is a battery-powered vaporizer that simulates tobacco smoking by producing an aerosol that resembles smoke. The benefits and risks of electronic cigarette use are uncertain. In hookah bars, patrons share tobacco products by smoking in a group setting.
More than 263,000 non-smoking kids tried e-cigarettes last year – three times as many as in 2011, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 44 percent of non-smoking kids who experimented with e-cigarettes said they intend to smoke regular cigarettes, compared to 22 percent of kids who had never tried e-cigs, the study found.
“We show them the negative, but there is always a positive that comes from it when you stop using it,” Bethune continued.