Tobacco Funds: Kids Get Stale Butt: Settlement Funds Reach Youth Development Agencies

Patrick Boyle
July 1, 1999

Is there room in the tobacco settlements for youth development? Florida says yes.
A variety of youth-serving agencies are among those that get tobacco settlement funds through the state health department. They weave anti-tobacco activities into their programs.

Many of those activities revolve around kids involved in SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) teams, although they also draw plenty of non-SWAT members. For example:

  • In Putnam County, the health department gave the nonprofit Arts Council of Greater Palatka $4,000 for kids to design and paint four anti-tobacco murals on public buildings, including a high school football stadium wall. One of the mural designs, done by a middle school student, was chosen as a poster for county buses.

    “What really works best with kids is not the curriculum part of it, but when you’re working on these poster and mural designs, they [the kids] start talking about things,” says arts council director Julia McCoy. “You start mentioning things like emphysema and lung cancer and people who have had all their teeth removed because they got cancer of the gums — they start talking about it more among themselves. They develop an intelligent reaction when they’re approached with a conflict: to smoke or not, to chew or not.”

  • The same health department also gave the Putnam County Recreation Department $4,000 last year for a three-day tobacco-free softball tournament that drew 30 teams of 12-to-18-year-olds. The weekend included anti-tobacco presentations, banners and literature, promotions of local tobacco-free restaurants, and a smoke-free zone that extended from home plate through the parking lots. The health department is thinking of funding a one-day baseball skills workshop through the rec department next year (“with big league baseball players”) that would include discussions about the importance of not smoking or chewing tobacco, says Jim Phillips, Putnam’s Tobacco Prevention Coordinator.

  • The Charlotte County tobacco prevention office has arranged anti-tobacco initiatives through the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Boys & Girls Club, various summer camps, and a local recreation agency called New Operation Cooper Street. The $18,000 to Cooper Street (in the city of Punta Gorda) helped pay for supplies, transportation and part-time staff positions for initiatives such as a SWAT basketball team that plays other teams, a “No Smoking Bones” Halloween dance, and after-school homework help provided by SWAT team members. Not every anti-smoking effort is so obviously anti-smoking: the funds were also used to help take kids on trips to places such as Busch Gardens, and for snacks.

    The idea is basic youth development: keep kids too busy having fun to take up unhealthy activities such as smoking. “At the center we know where you are, we know what you’re doing,” says board co-chair John Murphy. “Your parents know where you are.”

  • The Boys & Girls Club of Charlotte used $5,000 from the health department to include a Toward No Tobacco (TNT) curriculum in clubs established at schools. B&G Club Executive Director John Crockett described TNT as “multiple session life skills training, basically looking at the issues involved with tobacco from empowerment to the health risks and other factors.” The B&G hopes to open another club this year in a public housing project, and include the TNT course.

One sign of the close work between anti-smoking forces and youth agencies: Crockett took the top post at the B&G Club this spring after serving as the county’s tobacco prevention coordinator.

Boyle, Patrick. "Tobacco Funds: Kids Get Stale Butt: Settlement Funds Reach Youth Development Agencies." Youth Today, July/August 1999, p. 17.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.