News and Events

Levy County's “Through with Chew Week" Letter Writing Campaign!
February 20, 2017

Through With Chew Week (TWCW) is an annual national tobacco control observance intended to increase awareness about smokeless tobacco use. Traditionally, TWCW serves as an educational campaign to decrease smokeless tobacco use and increase awareness of the negative health effects of using any types of these products.

In Levy County, high school and middle school smokeless tobacco usage rates are nearly four times higher than the state averages. Per the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey in 2016, 14.1% of high school students and 5.7% of middle school students in Levy County reported using smokeless tobacco. The rate for Florida high schoolers was 3.7% and the Florida middle school rate was 1.4%.

“One potential reason the youth rates in Levy County are higher is because the tobacco industry tends to concentrate advertising for smokeless tobacco products in rural areas,” said Levy County Community Health Advocate Kristina Zachry. “Additionally, there are currently no federal regulations or laws that restrict the manufacture of flavored smokeless tobacco products, which are attractive to youth.”

To recognize Through With Chew Week this year, a small group of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and Tobacco Free Partnership members in Levy County decided that they wanted to start a letter writing campaign to educate local, state, and national decision makers about the prevalence of youth smokeless tobacco use, the impact of the tobacco industry on youth usage, and the importance of programs that help create awareness through prevention work.

Three senior SWAT leaders from Chiefland High School and a young adult member of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County focused their efforts on sharing information about youth smokeless tobacco usage rates and ways that decision makers can support their mission to reduce the tobacco industry’s influence on youth. They put together letters to various decision makers to educate them about the issues and mailed them off throughout the week.

From L to R - Elena Richardson, Samantha Nerau, Kelli Nerau

“The letters should make it easier for important people to want to help the cause we stand for,” said Samantha Nerau, a young adult member of the Tobacco Free Partnership and former SWAT member.

When asked about how the experience made them feel, the participants focused on the future and the impact that their voice can have on the big picture.

“It felt accomplishing to write a letter to decision makers about issues we are dealing with locally about smokeless tobacco,” said Elena Richardson. She added, “I would like to see our state officials more involved with supporting our mission so that the upcoming generation can live a healthier life.”

Kelli Nerau felt similarly: “As a young adult getting ready to start voting, it was inspiring to write letters to people who may not have the same views as us to help us move toward the end goal of our mission,” she said.

Overall, the students were very proud of their efforts to educate decision makers and they’re hopeful their letters are well received and impactful in getting their message out about smokeless tobacco.