Tobacco Free Partnership of Okeechobee County
PO Box 1595
Okeechobee, FL  34973

Okeechobee County Tobacco Prevention Newsletter

Volume 5, Issue 2 / Apr - June, 2016
Tobacco Free Partnership Supports Okeechobee Grad Night
June 4, 2016

     For the last 27 years Okeechobee has not had one death of a senior on graduation night and that is largely because of Grad Night.
     The community of Okeechobee has united once again to offer our best wishes to our high school graduates by hosting the annual all-night Grad Night celebration on June 4th 2016. The celebration is open to all Okeechobee graduating seniors and one pre-approved guest of their choice.
     Grad Night is organized by a local committee and supported by: the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee, Okeechobee Rotary Club, and many other local businesses. The Tobacco Free Partnership of Okeechobee County was honored to help sponsor this year's event, which creates a drug-and-alcohol free event for local high school graduates.
     Grad Night begins one hour after the high school graduation ceremony ends.  This year’s event is being held at Chobee Skate and Play.  Graduating seniors attend the event with a pre-approved guest of the choice.  Upon arrival each student is checked in and given a wristband, the students are not permitted outside of the building during the entire event, and they are not permitted to return to the event once they leave. By not allowing the students to leave and return, and not allowing the students to obtain their prizes until the next morning it encourages the youth to stay the entire time of the event.

Okeechobee High School Recognizes Graduating Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members
May 12, 2016

     On May 12, Okeechobee High School SWAT Club honored their graduating seniors with an awards ceremony and highlighted their achievements over the past few year.  This year, the club will have 24 seniors graduating from the club and they will be greatly missed.
     Over the past years these students have been instrumental in helping pass the new 100% tobacco free grounds policy that was adopted by the school district in April of 2015, and have received proclamations from both the City and the County of Okeechobee.
     SWAT students also attended regional training events in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and were given awards at those trainings for the work they do in their community and growing their club to over 35 active members.
     These students participated in numerous events over the years to try and change the social norm perception of tobacco among the youth in Okeechobee.  Some of their events were: The Health and Safety Expo, Santa in the Park, Bell ringing for Salvation Army, Lake O Clean up on Kick Butts Day, Okeechobee County Fair, DARE Graduation, Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, Adam Bryant Minimal Regatta and Legislative Delegation.

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E-cigarettes causing nicotine poisoning ‘epidemic’ for kids, experts warn
May 16, 2016

     The growing popularity of e-cigarettes has put more kids at risk of nicotine poisoning, leading to hospitalizations, coma and in one case, death, according to a national study.
     The study, published in Pediatrics, analyzed calls to poison centres and found that the number of e-cigarette calls increased 15-fold by the end of the 40-month study. The monthly number of calls involving e-cigarettes increased from 14 to 223, between 2012 and 2015.
     “That by any definition is an epidemic,” said Dr. Gary Smith, the lead author of the study and Director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
     In Central Florida, the number of calls for e-cigarette exposure increased from three in 2011 to 11 in 2015, said Adam Wood, clinical toxicologist at Nemours Children’s Hospital. Statewide, that number rose from eight to 105 during that period.
     It’s been known for decades that nicotine is a toxic substance, particularly for kids, but the rapid growth of the e-cigarette industry has made it more accessible to small children at home.
     There are now more than 400 brands and 7,700 flavours of liquid nicotine, since e-cigarettes entered the U.S. market in 2007. Many of the e-cigarettes and refill containers are not child proof.
FDA takes significant steps to protect Americans from dangers of tobacco through new regulation
May 5, 2016

     Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule extending its authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, among others. This historic rule helps implement the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 and allows the FDA to improve public health and protect future generations from the dangers of tobacco use through a variety of steps, including restricting the sale of these tobacco products to minors nationwide.
     “We have more to do to help protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth. As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap. All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of addiction,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “Today’s announcement is an important step in the fight for a tobacco-free generation – it will help us catch up with changes in the marketplace, put into place rules that protect our kids and give adults information they need to make informed decisions.”
     Tobacco use is a significant public health threat. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States and responsible for 480,000 deaths per year. While there has been a significant decline in the use of traditional cigarettes among youth over the past decade, their use of other tobacco products continues to climb. A recent survey supported by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows current e-cigarette use among high school students has skyrocketed from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015 (an over 900 percent increase) and hookah use has risen significantly.
Florida Supreme Court To Take Up Tobacco Damages Dispute
May 27, 2016

     The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to take up a case in which an appeals court rejected a $30 million punitive-damages award against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, according to an online docket. 
     The Broward County lawsuit, filed by the widow of late smoker James Schoeff, is part of thousands of what are known as "Engle progeny" cases filed in Florida against tobacco companies.
     Those cases are linked to a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that established critical findings about the health dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers.
     In the Schoeff case, a jury ruled against R.J. Reynolds and set compensatory damages at $10.5 million and punitive damages at $30 million.
     The compensatory damages amount was reduced to $7.875 million because Schoeff was found to be 25 percent at fault for his lung cancer and death. The 4th District Court of Appeal last year ordered reconsideration of the award of $30 million in punitive damages, which would top the previous high of $25 million in Engle cases.

      Attorneys for Schoeff's widow, Joan, asked the Supreme Court to take up issues related to the compensatory and punitive damages. In a brief filed in December, for example, they raised questions about limits on punitive damages in Engle cases.
California Raises Smoking Age to 21
May 5, 2016

     California has passed legislation raising its smoking age from 18 to 21 for most of its citizens.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a series of bills Wednesday, which also place new restrictions on where people can smoke and the sale of electronic cigarettes.
     "[These laws] will save countless lives, reduce astronomical costs to the health care system, and cost very little because it uses existing enforcement mechanisms," said Senator Ed Hernandez, who authored the bill to raise the age of tobacco products. "Today was an enormous victory for not only this generation, but also for many generations to come who will not suffer the deadly impacts of tobacco."
     The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network (the group's advocacy affiliate), the American Lung Association and the president of the California Medical Association all expressed support for the new law.
     The initial bill made it illegal for everyone under the age of 21 to buy tobacco products, but some argued if 18-year-olds can be drafted or volunteer to fight and die for their country, they should be allowed to buy tobacco products.
A stipulation was later added to exempt active duty military personnel 18 and over.
Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise their smoking age on January 1, following the lead of more than 100 cities, including San Francisco, Boston and New York.
     The new laws also ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under 21 and restricts where they can be used in public places.
     That stipulation was swiftly condemned by the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, which called the limitations to vapor products, some of which contain no tobacco, "counterproductive to public health."
FGCU Initiates Smoking and Tobacco Free Campus Policy
May 11, 2016

      Florida Gulf Coast University has finally initiated their smoke and tobacco-free campus policy. Going smoke and tobacco free has been in discussion since February 2015 and as of May 9, the university campus has joined 1,500 other college campuses nationwide in this policy to encourage healthy and safe environments.
     The new policy, entitled “Regulation: FGCU-PR9.007,” details the banning of smoking and the use of tobacco products within buildings and on university premises. It details that students, faculty and staff will no longer be able to smoke or use tobacco products in the following forms: lit cigarettes, cigars and pipes, electronic cigarettes or personal vaporizers, smokeless tobacco (e.g. chewing tobacco and snuff), and any form of tobacco taken orally or inhaled through the nose.
     The new policy also includes details on the consumption of food within university buildings and facilities, noting that food and drink may only be consumed in areas designated for doing so.
     UPD has already confirmed that they will not be enforcing the policy, rather, the Smoke-Free Tobacco-Free Implementation Committee (SFTFCC) will be handing all consequences of violating the policy. Additionally, the new policy makes no mention of smoking cannabis, however, the university has prior policies banning the use, distribution and possession of controlled substances.
Tony Gwynn’s Family Sues Tobacco Industry, Seeking Recourse Over Fatal Habit
May 23, 2016

     The family of Tony Gwynn, a baseball Hall of Famer who died of salivary gland cancer in 2014, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday against the tobacco industry, charging that Gwynn had been manipulated into the addiction to smokeless tobacco that ultimately killed him.
     The suit was filed in Superior Court in San Diego against
Altria Group Inc., the tobacco giant formerly known as Philip Morris, and several other defendants who are accused of inducing Gwynn to begin using smokeless tobacco, or dip, at San Diego State University, which he attended from 1977 to 1981 and where he later coached after a 20-year career with the San Diego Padres.
     For 31 years — 1977 to 2008 — Gwynn used one and a half to two cans of smokeless tobacco (usually Skoal) per day. It was the equivalent, the suit says, of four to five packs of cigarettes every day for 31 years. Gwynn would dip Skoal immediately upon waking up, the suit said, and sometimes fall asleep with the product in his right lip and cheek area.
     There are no damages specified in the complaint, which asks for a jury trial on grounds of negligence, fraud and product liability. Essentially, the complaint says that Gwynn, while in college, was the victim of a scheme to get him, a rising star athlete, addicted to smokeless tobacco, while knowing the dangers it posed to him. The suit says that the industry was undergoing a determined effort at the time to market its products to African-Americans, and that Gwynn was a “marketing dream come true” for the defendants.
     “Now that the family understands how he was targeted, they understand that the industry knew they had this highly carcinogenic product and they were marketing it to people like Tony,” said David S. Casey, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs.
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