CHIPLEY – Members of Washington County's student-led Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) organization, along with the Florida Department of Health in Washington County, are celebrating local business partners and progress made in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke.

The idea for the project came last July after local SWAT members became one of 16 teams nationwide selected to attend the National Truth Initiative’s Youth Advocacy Summit as part of the Truth Initiative's nationwide effort to achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco. Washington County SWAT members chose to work on decreasing exposure to secondhand smoke by building examples of smoke-free business entrances as their project.

SWAT members state that studies showed community settings such as building entrances, restaurant patios, strip malls, parks, and bus stops are the most common venues for secondhand smoke exposure. "Thirty-two percent of people in those settings stated they had come into contact with secondhand smoke in the past seven days," reported SWAT member Lily Anderson. "Respondents cited cars and homes as the next most common areas for exposure, at seven percent and three percent, respectively."

”We intend to be the first tobacco free generation,” she added. "We want to start with cutting down on exposure to secondhand smoke because of the effects it has on everyone."

SWAT students have also been identifying local businesses willing to support Clean Air Zones at building entrances to help improve the health of employees and patrons to their businesses. According to The American Lung Association, there is an association between being employed in a workplace where smoking is prohibited and both a reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked per day and an increase in the success rate for smokers who are attempting to quit.

“Having smoking bins at entrances to buildings increases exposure to secondhand smoke," added SWAT member Ashten Tharp. "If we work with local businesses to establish 25-foot clean air zones, we can help people stay healthier, especially those who are sensitive to cigarette smoke.”

Several local businesses such as McDonald’s restaurant, Burger King, Morris Industries, Hobbs Heating and Air Conditioning, King's Drugs, Javier's Mexican Restaurant, and Skins and Bubbas restaurant, have established policies restricting the use of tobacco products within 25 feet of their entrances.

“We are partnering with SWAT and asking other businesses to join us in creating healthier workplaces for employees and to protect people visiting our businesses,” said Nathan Hobbs, owner of Hobbs Heating and Air Conditioning.

SWAT and the Washington County Department of Health encourage other local businesses to contact them to take part in this initiative and create clean air zones around their entrances.

For more information, contact Sharron Hobbs at 850-638-6240, extension 134