It’s not a guarded market secret — e-cigarette and vape manufacturers are targeting minors, marketing their products as “not that harmful”.
Our high school-aged kids are in their wheelhouse. But while adults might be fighting the good fight to keep these tobacco-like products out of their hands, the adults aren’t alone in the fight.
A group from Osceola High School, who addressed the School Board recently, is tackling the problem in school.
Osceola SWAT — Students Working Against Tobacco — said they are lobbying to have chapters in every county middle and high school to drill the dangers of tobacco use into students’ heads. Currently, only OHS, St. Cloud High and Osceola County School for the Arts have them.
They came to the School Board meeting in shirts with the phrase “Not a Lab Rat”. Last year, they were honored with a 2019 World No Tobacco Day award for their Not A Lab Rat campaign.
Their message at Osceola is to create a safe place from being targeted by marketing campaigns of company’s like Juul, who Osceola County is moving forward with a lawsuit against and tricks minors into using the products and thereby starting a nicotine addiction.
Board Member Ricky Booth said he planned to take up use of vapes and e-cigs as a discussion topic Tuesday — before Osceola SWAT’s presentation. He noted that since the federal government this year raised the age to buy all tobacco products, Seminole county law enforcement has be writing civil citations to high schoolers caught with them, and he’d like to look into that being possible in Osceola County. He got a head-nod from Board Chairman Kelvin Soto and Superintendent Debra Pace to look into it.
The students, like Allyssa Williams, a SWAT member who concluded a term as the School Board’s Student Representative, noted the new federal law didn’t apply to single-use flavored e-cigarettes.
“We’re tired of seeing teachers and staff smoke or vape outside, like in the parking lots, exposing us to it,” she said.
Williams and others have taken their fight to Tallahassee and, in Williams’ case, Washington D.C. to give lawmakers a student’s perspective of the tobacco problem.
Osceola SWAT’s message was received highly by the School Board; Terry Castillo lauded them for stressing accountability.
“One isn’t a leader merely by being in a seat like ours and talking,” Tim Weisheyer said. “It is by actions, and you all are leaders.”
“As an OHS alum,” Clarence Thacker said, “I’m very proud of what you are doing.”
Thank you, Osceola SWAT, for taking a stance and educating your peers, and adults, on the dangers of smoking and vaping. You are making a Positive Difference in Osceola County!