News and Events

Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members Share Tobacco Issues with Local Legislators
December 3, 2018

On December 3, 2018, members of Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) attended the Levy County Legislative Delegation meeting in Bronson and presented information to Representative Charlie Stone and Senator Rob Bradley. Their presentation highlighted the goals SWAT and the TFP have achieved in Levy County as well as the concerning trend of high electronic cigarette usage among youth and the steps that have been taken to address the problem by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Chiefland Middle High School Junior and Statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board Member, Emma Ronchetti, was excited about the opportunity to present to state elected officials. “I was honored to be able to share the wonderful things SWAT has been doing throughout the state and in our community,” she said, “I was proud to be able to represent SWAT and all the kids who have worked so hard to make a difference.”


L to R: Representative Charlie Stone, Laycee Hallman, Emma Ronchetti, Senator Rob Bradley

In her presentation, Emma shared that Levy SWAT has almost 200 members across six schools in the cities of Bronson, Cedar Key, Chiefland, Williston, and Yankeetown. Levy has also had a youth like Emma serve on the Statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) for the past ten years, which shows tremendous youth leadership and commitment in the community.

Laycee Hallman is a former SWAT and statewide YAB representative and a current young adult member of the partnership and a student at the College of Central Florida. She presented information on the policy goals that SWAT and the partnership have achieved to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in the community. There are now major tobacco free events in Levy County, including the Cedar Key Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, the Levy County Fair, the Chiefland Farmer’s Market, and the Tri County Community Resource Center’s Spring Festival.

Laycee also shared that the North Central Florida Regional Housing Authority and Manatee Springs Apartments in Chiefland have established tobacco free policies, as well as the College of Central Florida and the School Board of Levy County. Future goals include a tobacco free playground in Cedar Key and working on establishing tobacco free policies for other community events in the area that are widely attended, such as the Kirby Family Farm events in Williston for Halloween and the holidays. 

Emma educated the delegation that many of the local policies that have been passed include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (e-cigarettes), since they have become an epidemic with youth - even with kids as young as 4th and 5th grade in Levy County. She also shared details about a new SWAT e-cigarette awareness campaign called “Not a Lab Rat,” which aims to spread information about the dangers of using these products and how the tobacco industry targets youth with flavorings and advertising.

Emma felt that her presentation made a difference. “I think my speech really showed them how intrusive e-cigarettes are to our youth,” she said. “When telling them that the Levy County School officials have reported 4th and 5th graders using e-cigarette products, the entire room was distraught. I believe they realized then that something must be done.”

When asked what else partnerships are working on that she’d like to see the delegates support, Laycee mentioned the move to raise the minimum age for the purchase of tobacco to 21 years old. “I hope the delegates will support the Tobacco 21 movement because I think it will help decrease the access that kids have to tobacco products,” Laycee explained, “Most kids at the age of 18 are still in high school and they can buy it for their friends. If the legal age is raised to 21 it will decrease the teen smoking rate.”

If you would like more information about joining the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County or Students Working Against Tobacco, please contact us at info@TFP-Levy.org or 352-577-4309.