In August of 1997, Florida won a landmark victory against the tobacco industry. As part of that settlement, Florida was awarded $13.1 billion. Several months later in March of 1998, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles advocated that youth should be stakeholders and leaders in solving the tobacco epidemic and reducing teen smoking. Students Working Against Tobacco was created at the Teen Tobacco Summit where 600 middle and high school youth met and created SWAT as a way to spread their message about the tobacco industry.
For the next five years, Florida coordinated a comprehensive youth led, youth focused tobacco prevention program that included community mobilization, enforcement, education, evaluation, and marketing components. In 2003, the program’s annual budget was reduced from $39 million to $1 million. SWAT continued but the comprehensive program and components such as the Truth media and campaign were lost.
In 2006, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment which returned funding to the tobacco program. County level SWAT chapters emerged anew with strategies to advocate for policies that will change the tobacco landscape for future generations.
SWAT is an anti-tobacco organization that students in middle and high school can join to participate in activities and events that support the vision of a Tobacco Free Florida. SWAT is the youth advocacy organization supported by Florida’s Bureau of Tobacco Prevention Program (BTPP). The goal of SWAT policies is to change social norms so that tobacco use and tobacco companies are not an acceptable part of our cultural norms. SWAT members also represent youth as the student voice on the local Tobacco Free Partnership.