News and Events

Flavored Tobacco Resolutions adopted in the City of Williston, Town of Bronson, and Town of Inglis
June 1, 2013

In a whirlwind of activity, members of the Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program presented information about how flavored tobacco targets teenagers to decision makers for the Town of Bronson and the City of Williston. Additionally, the Chair of the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Levy County contacted decision makers for the Town of Inglis and educated them about these deceptive tobacco products, which have been proven to encourage youth to try tobacco. These education activities resulted in three flavored tobacco resolutions being adopted in a very short span of time.

On April 15th, the Bronson Town Council voted 3-0 to proclaim a resolution asking retailers to remove flavored tobacco products from the view of children, which was in line with a discussion that they had at a meeting on March 5th, where senior SWAT members Ansley Pentz (Chiefland High School) and Casey Ranalli (Bronson High School) presented compelling facts and shared samples of flavored tobacco products with the council members. The students educated the council about flavored tobacco products, noting how the bright coloring of the packaging, fruity flavors and even the package designs themselves, are all tobacco industry tactics intended to encourage teenagers to use tobacco products. “They come in all kinds of flavors – mint, strawberry, vanilla, [and] fruity flavors,” says Casey Ranalli. “The packaging colors are bright and vibrant”.

Bronson Town Council

In a television interview for GTN News, Bronson Vice-Mayor Berlon Weeks said, “What really sold it to me on the council was that they’re starting to do nicotine in these little orbs and flavor strips like you do your Listerine, and if that’s not just to hook people on nicotine, I don’t see any other reason for that”. Vice-Mayor Weeks also hinted that Bronson may be interested in taking the resolution a step further: “We’re going to have them remove the tobacco from the front of the shelves, so when you go into the impulse buying section of the convenience stores, the tobacco is not right there”. He did note that this step would be in the future and after several meetings with everyone who would be impacted.

Camel Orbs

Literally one day after Bronson voted to pass their resolution, on April 16th, the Williston City Council voted 5-0 in favor of passing a similar resolution urging retailers to stop the sale and marketing of flavored tobacco products. This time, SWAT member Ansley Pentz was joined by Jared Worley (8th Grade, Williston Middle School) and Christian Aracena (10th Grade, Chiefland High School), as they delivered a presentation to educate the council members about the impact these flavored tobacco products have on youth as well as the fact that these products are often used as drug paraphernalia for marijuana.

First-time public speaker and SWAT member, Jared Worley, felt that the experience was “a little nerve-racking at first and took me out of my comfort zone, but I will do it again because I know it will make a difference in the long run”. When asked how he felt about the experience, co-presenter Christian Aracena said “It was a great experience, and I got the chance to learn more about the legislative world”.

The Williston resolution passed unanimously despite a letter that was emailed to the council members from the chairman of the convenience store division of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which was read to the council at the meeting, during their discussion about the resolution. The letter stated that, as chairman, he was against the flavored tobacco resolution as he believes a person who is old enough to buy any tobacco product should be allowed to do so. He feels that a resolution urging a retailer to not sell a legal product is not the answer. The answer would be to have law enforcement take a strong stance against minors who are violating the law. The man who wrote the letter owns several convenience stores in Levy County and surrounding areas.

The Williston City Council President felt strongly that the flavored tobacco resolution represents a moral issue. The consensus among council members was that, based on the fact that the resolution serves as a recommendation, morally, the council believes that retailers should not be selling these products. “The letter was definitely a surprise, and we all held our breath to see how the Council members would respond,” says Levy County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Kristina Zachry. “I’m so happy that the council members feel strongly about protecting Levy County’s youth from the influence of the tobacco companies and that they fully supported the SWAT members”.

Not far behind, on May 14th, the Town of Inglis passed the flavored tobacco resolution, urging tobacco retailers to stop the sale and marketing of flavored tobacco products in Inglis. The resolution passed without much fanfare, and the SWAT students and partnership members weren’t even in attendance at the meeting!

SWAT member Ansley Pentz is particularly outraged at the tobacco industry’s attempts to market to her generation and is excited about the progress with passing resolutions in Levy County. She feels that “these city resolutions discourage the sale and promotion of candy-flavored tobacco. This means that Levy leaders are taking a stance against products that entice youth. The tobacco industry consequently loses potential customers”.

By adopting these resolutions, these three municipalities in Levy County have become part of a statewide movement to encourage the Florida Legislature to pass new laws regulating the sale of these products and to keep them out of the hands of underage youth. To date, 162 individual municipalities and 50 of Florida’s 67 counties have passed similar resolutions, encouraging retailers to voluntarily stop the sale of flavored tobacco products or change the manner in which they are displayed.

Internal tobacco industry documents released during the Master Settlement Agreement revealed that fruit and candy-flavored tobacco products were created to intentionally target youth.  Studies have found that teenagers use these flavored products at rates three times higher than adults.

“They have become the ‘starter-products’ of choice among children and teenagers,” said Dr. Barry Hummel of Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation. “This is especially important since 85% of new tobacco users start between the ages of 12 and 17, prior to the legal age”. Many of these tobacco products are sold in the retail outlets where teenagers most frequently shop. Some of the products, such as snus, do not even identify that the package contains tobacco. This leads to confusion among store clerks, making it easier for underage teens to purchase tobacco without providing identification.

“These flavored tobacco resolutions are very similar to one passed by the Levy County Board of County Commissioners in March 2012,” said Kristina Zachry.  “The increased community awareness about flavored tobacco products and the discussions these resolutions are generating will help us to continue to reduce youth tobacco use in Levy County”.  Ansley Pentz adds, “These resolutions don’t prohibit the sale of candy-flavored tobacco, but do encourage retailers to take a stand for pediatric health. You can help protect youth in our community by joining the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County and supporting us as we work to pass resolutions in other cities”.