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News Story
Updated: 03/19/2014 08:00:03AM

Polk teens tell Big Tobacco: I am not a ‘replacement’

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The tobacco industry is losing customers. Not only are more smokers quitting every day, studies show, 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, they call “replacement smokers,” as evidenced in 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, which is Wednesday, March 19, Polk County Students Working Against Tobacco plan to speak up and take action to let Big Tobacco know they will not be replacements. Kick Butts Day is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids national day of activism that empowers youth to fight back against Big Tobacco.

The Polk County SWAT Chapter has 10 student delegates traveling to Tallahassee on Kick Butts Day to meet with state decision makers. They plan to discuss tobacco related issues such as pre-emption and candy-flavored tobacco. Polk students will provide updates to state representatives showing the growing support for local municipalities to cease the sale of candy-flavored tobacco. Students plan to visit Rep. Neil Combee, Sen. Darren Soto and Rep. John Woods to share county specific progress on preventing exposure to second-hand smoke and increasing access for employees to cessation services.

Students will give current data relevant to youth initiation rates and provide a summary of chapter activities and successes. While in the capital students will meet with the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida and The State Attorney General, Dr. John Armstrong to share county specific highlights.

For each smoking-related death, at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers each day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports.

“Tobacco usage remains the number one preventable cause of death and disability in the United States,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe, FDOH-Polk Director. “Through efforts such as the ‘Not a Replacement’ campaign we hope to reverse that statistic.”

Nine 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 will die prematurely as a result of smoking, statistics indicate.

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