News and Events

DeSoto County Teens Tell Big Tobacco:
I am Not a “Replacement”

March 19, 2014

The tobacco industry is losing customers. Not only are more smokers quitting, every day, an estimated 1,315 people in the United States die because of smoking. 

In response, the tobacco industry targets a new generation of potential nicotine addicts, which they call “replacement smokers.” A 1984 internal document from R.J. Reynolds’, the makers of Camel, stated: “Younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers… If younger adults turn away from smoking, the industry must decline, just as a population which does not give birth will eventually dwindle.”

This Kick Butts Day, DeSoto’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) are speaking up and taking action to let Big Tobacco know they will be not replacements. Kick Butts Day, on March 19, is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids national day of activism that empowers youth to fight back against Big Tobacco.

KBD Card

Kick Butts Day is during Spring Break for DeSoto schools. This is not stopping some SWAT members from celebrating the day out in the community and online. They have left Kick Butts Day information cards in areas with public information like The Last Chapter Coffee House and The Chamber of Commerce. They also represented the “I am Not a ‘Replacement’” campaign by wearing shirts with that message and taking “selfies.” The youth have the option to post their “selfies” on the DeSoto SWAT Facebook page with the tag #swatourvoice.

“Tobacco doesn’t make you look better,” said Andreina Martinez, a member of DeSoto High School SWAT. “It makes you look older than you really are. SWAT guides you on a regular basis to understand the harms of tobacco and reasons to stay away from it.”

For each smoking-related death, at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers each day. These young people rarely consider the long-term health consequences of smoking when they start. Because of nicotine, a highly addictive drug, three out of four youth continue smoking well into adulthood, often with serious and even deadly consequences. In fact, about half of long-term smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related causes.

“Events like Kick Butts Day help youth understand that they are the targets of the tobacco industry,” said Dr. Barry Hummel of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, which coordinates the Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT in Gilchrist County. “Nothing is more eye-opening to a teenager than to realize that they are being manipulated into making a bad decision, a decision that will have life-long consequences.  Sadly, teenagers still make up 85% of new tobacco users each and every year because of those impulsive decisions.”

“Youth have always been a target for the tobacco industry,” said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Shannon Hughes. “Numerous internal tobacco industry documents reveal that the tobacco companies perceived young people as an important target. They developed products, like flavored tobacco, and marketing campaigns aimed at teens.”

KBD Card

The fact is that nine out of 10 smokers start by age 18.  If current smoking rates continue, 5.6 million U.S. children alive today who are younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely as a result of smoking.

For more information on the SWAT program in DeSoto County, contact Whitney Page Browning at