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Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation Awarded Tobacco Prevention Grant for Levy County

The Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation has been awarded a grant from the State of Florida Department of Health to provide tobacco awareness and prevention programs throughout Levy County.  The programs are designed to reduce the number of teenagers who start smoking each year, to decrease the number of tobacco related deaths, and to provide information on appropriate methods to quit smoking.

The program is funded from a trust fund created with money paid to Florida as part of a settlement with the tobacco industry in 1997.   Florida sued the tobacco industry to recoup the cost of providing medical services to Florida residents that were caused by the use of tobacco.

“Tobacco use is the single biggest public health problem in the United States,” reports Dr. Barry Hummel, a Pediatrician who co-founded the non-profit foundation.  “We lose over 400,000 people every year to diseases caused by tobacco.  Sadly, they are replaced by over one million children and teenagers who are lured into smoking by the predatory marketing practices of the Tobacco Industry.”

Several of the educational programs provided by the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation are designed to point out to children and teens exactly how the Tobacco Industry targets America’s youth.  “Each of our programs focuses on a different, age-appropriate issue,” says Dr. Hummel.  “For elementary school children, we show the health risks of tobacco use.  In middle school classrooms, we discuss the issue of tobacco advertising and marketing, especially in local convenience stores, and how the false promises found in those ads entice teenagers to try tobacco.  For high school students, we discuss the impact of onscreen tobacco use in movies and television shows and the impact that such glamorization has on teen smoking.”

In Levy County, the programs will be managed by Kristina Zachry, who has has been the county's Tobacco Prevention Specialist since 2007.  She will also be responsible for facilitating the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County.  The Partnership is a coalition of community leaders that will be working together on tobacco issues that affect the residents of Levy County, particularly its most vulnerable residents: youth and senior citizens.

"I'm excited to continue tobacco prevention in Levy County with the Quit Doc team," added Ms. Zachry. "I'm looking forward to a new year of inspiring the youth in Levy County to fight against the tobacco industry so they can help protect their generation from the effects of tobacco. I'm also looking forward to diversifying the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County with new members and helping guide them in a collective effort to change tobacco policies in Levy County."

The Partnership will be working on several initiatives to reduce youth access to tobacco products, to reduce illnesses and exposure to secondhand smoke, and to promote tobacco cessation services throughout the county.

There will also be an active youth program to work on these same issues.  The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program has been an active part of tobacco control in Florida since the original settlement.  Florida’s SWAT Program has been a model for other states, and remains a very effective youth prevention program. Levy County is also the home of Ansley Pentz, the Vice-Chair of the Youth Advisory Board for the Statewide SWAT Program. "I'm really proud to represent Levy County on the SWAT statewide Youth Advocacy Board," said Ms. Pentz recently. "Through my office, I am able to channel Levy members' concerns to the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida and give relevant updates to those involved. This year should be an exciting adventure as we incorporate Quit Doc leadership into our SWAT program."

All programs are provided free-of-charge to participating schools or organizations.  Interested groups or individuals can obtain more information, or schedule a program, by calling 352-577-4309. Kristina Zachry can be reached directly at kzachry@quitdoc.com  Additional information is also available at www.tfp-levy.org.