theParklander

The Scourge of Smoking
By David Volz / October, 2011

Fewer people are smoking today, but those who do smoke are engaging in a risky activity that could be fatal. Most people who do smoke wish they had not taken up the habit and are trying to quit. Many corporations strongly urge their employees to quit smoking and, in Florida, people cannot smoke inside public buildings.

Nicotine is known as a highly addictive substance that creates a sense of euphoria and relaxation. The American Heart Association has found that nicotine is one of the hardest addictions to break, comparable to heroin and cocaine.

Tar is known to damage the lung cells that keep tumors from forming. It also damages the cilia in lungs. Tar causes emphysema and bronchitis.

To encourage young people not to use tobacco, the Broward County Health Department has developed an initiative known as Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT). It is Florida's state-wide youth organization designed to mobilize, educate and equip Florida youth to fight efforts by large tobacco companies in their efforts to encourage smoking. It is a united movement to encourage young people to work toward a tobacco-free future, according to Candy Sims, spokesperson for the Broward County Health Department.

There are 22 SWAT chapters in Broward County -- 19 in middle and high schools and three in community-based organizations. The program began in 1998 as an initiative by former Governor Lawton Chiles as a way for young people to encourage their peers to avoid smoking. Members of SWAT participate in PTA events and community events. Members of SWAT will also make presentations to school principals, city officials and law enforcement personnel.

Candy-flavored tobacco is one area that the Tobacco Prevention Program in conjunction with the Tobacco-Free Partnership of Broward County is fighting. These organizations are speaking to representatives of municipalities and the Broward County government. The goal is to get these governments to issue proclamations and resolutions to restrict the availability of candy-flavored tobacco products to young people.

"A Harvard School of Public Health article published in 2005 found the cigarette makers are targeting young smokers with new candy and liqueur-flavored tobacco brands that mask the harsh and toxic properties found in tobacco smoke," said Sims. "Tobacco companies use youth-oriented colorful and stylish packaging and exploit adolescent attraction to candy flavors such as Mandarin Mint and Winter Warm Toffee."

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Every day in Florida, close to 100 residents die due to tobacco-related illnesses. The Broward County Health Department Tobacco Control Program is working to reduce tobacco use, encourage youth to stay tobacco- free, increase awareness about the dangers of second-hand smoke and create a tobacco-free Broward County.

The primary goals of the program include preventing the initiation of tobacco use, eliminating exposure to second-hand smoke, promoting the end of tobacco use, and increasing the use of cessation services. The Tobacco-Free Partnership of Broward County is a community coalition of individuals who are committed to making Broward County a safer, healthier place to live and work. One goal is to create tobacco-free multi-unit condos and apartments. Another goal is to create tobacco-free outdoor spaces, such as parks and beaches.

To join, the Tobacco-Free Partnership of Broward meets every third Thursday of each month from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the Broward County Health Department's Administrative Center at 780 S.W. 24th Street, Fort Lauderdale. For more information, the telephone number is 954-467-4807.




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