Florida's "SWAT Without Borders" a success!
June 25, 2001

Last week Florida's Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) annual teen summit marked the culmination of the youth-led advocacy group's "SWAT Without Borders" project. The project is an excellent example of how young people can work in solidarity across borders to promote international tobacco control, by investigating and exposing Big Tobacco's global trail of deceit.

The project is also a perfect example of how U.S. groups can use their global partnerships to generate local and national media coverage. The "SWAT Without Borders" initiative gained top news story coverage on Spanish-language television channels Telemundo and Univision and generated numerous print stories. A sampling:

Florida Anti-Tobacco Teens Decry World Marketing
by Broward Liston (Reuters) 6/20/01


Anti-Tobacco Teens Taking Campaign Global
by Mike Branom (Associated Press) 6/20/01


"SWAT Without Borders" is a good model for how international partnerships might effectively counter Big Tobacco's lies at home and abroad. In the U.S., groups can use outrageous international marketing examples to undermine the tobacco industry's "We've Changed" public relations campaign. Abroad, groups can dispel the myth that smoking is the "American" thing to do by publicizing how youth in the U.S. are actively targeting back the tobacco industry.

Since many GPTC partnerships may want to conduct similar activities in their communities, we've provided further information below. If you're interested, Essential Action can fax/send additional information and put you in touch with the appropriate SWAT organizers in Florida.

May Florida's example provide inspiration to us all!


SWAT is a youth-led anti-tobacco advocacy group that is part of a comprehensive anti-tobacco initiative organized by the Florida Department of Health. There are 67 chapters (one for each country). SWAT membership is open to all middle and high school aged youth and has a membership statewide of more than 30,000 students with almost 40 percent minority representation. SWAT, along with other components of Florida's anti-tobacco campaign, has been credited with reducing smoking by 18 percent among high school students and 40 percent among middle school students.

The primary strategy of SWAT is to expose the tobacco industry's lies and manipulation. Its "SWAT Without Borders" campaign aimed to present the "Truth" about the tobacco industry's targeting of young people around the world. Each of Florida's 67 SWAT chapters chose a country and investigated tobacco industry marketing tactics, youth smoking rates, and tobacco control initiatives in that country. When possible, Florida youth tried to make contact with youth in their partner country and to collect actual examples of tobacco marketing. During the campaign, SWAT chapters took the information they learned to their local communities by: 1) distributing "postcards" with global tobacco information. 2) hosting events to educate the public on the global health crisis that Big Tobacco is creating in its drive for bigger profits.

Some follow up activities that were used to generate media coverage at SWAT's Teen Summit:
* Photos and samples of tobacco marketing from around the world were displayed in a "Rogue's Gallery of Shame."
* Video "reports" from teens in foreign countries on their countries' tobacco marketing efforts were presented at a press conference.
* SWAT representatives released top 10 "RULES" global companies must follow to clean up their act and stop addicting teens worldwide (see below).
* Thousands of signed postcards from people outraged at global marketing practices were presented which will be sent to tobacco company executives.


"A message that goes a long way. Anti-tobacco students target international marketing,"
by Robyn Suriano, Orlando Sentinel 6/21/01
(Essential Action can fax/send full article)

The Orange County SWAT group hopes to help their brethren overseas, too. They have been corresponding with School No. 160 in the icy Siberian town of Novosibirsk, where about 18 percent of teenage girls and 40 percent of teenage boys already smoke. Natalia Alekseeva, a researcher with the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, attended the SWAT meeting to bring more information back to the school kids. She said the Russian youths are invigorated by the personal letters and educational material they receive from Orlando-area kids.

"They feel that they are not alone, and it is a great support to them," Alekseeva said. "They feel they are doing something big and great, something important."

"Jeb Bush chooses profit over principle," by Tom Fiedler, Miami Herald 6/17/01

The week before the SWAT summit, Florida governor Jeb Bush announced that the state would reinvest in tobacco stocks. Here is how one editorial columnist attacked the move, using an international slant:

"The primary reason why tobacco stocks have enjoyed such a rebound is that the cigarette-makers have opened new markets in foreign countries using the same cartoon characters and advertising techniques they've been made to give up here. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, about 10 million people will die of tobacco use every year. And now Florida investments will shore up the stocks of these companies, which will make them ever-more effective in peddling their slow-death products both here and abroad...Is this something that Floridians want to be a part of?"


1. The youth of the world must no longer be lied to or manipulated by the tobacco industry. No advertising efforts may be intended, directly or indirectly, to have a customer base in the youth market.

2. The tobacco industry must publicly admit to all countries that tobacco is addictive and kills.

3. Advertisement and product placement in contact with youth are prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to: television, radio, print, movies, and internet sites.

4. Internal documents and memos must be available and easily accessible for international public viewing in every language tobacco advertisement are found. The tobacco industry must admit to having directly targeted youth with tobacco advertisements.

5. Sponsorship of youth related activities, in which youth are spectators and/or participants, are strictly prohibited.

6. The use of animated characters is forbidden due to its influence on youth.

7. Warning labels clearly stating the dangerous effects of tobacco use must be affixed to all tobacco products in the common language[s] of the country in which the product is being sold.

8. The image and culture of the United States of America are not to be used as a means of marketing tobacco products.

9. Sponsoring sporting events and using sports in advertising are prohibited.

10. The tobacco industry must not interfere with any country's anti-tobacco initiatives.

SPECIAL THANKS to the numerous GPTC groups that were involved with the "SWAT Without Borders" effort: Volusia County, Alachua Country, and Suwanee County SWAT groups and their international partners in Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya; Anna Nowosad of the Polish Scouting Association and Natalia Alexeeva of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, who both attended the summit; the Nigerian group PADDI that supplied a superb videotape of a teenager giving a tour of tobacco billboards in his local community; Sara Bogdani of For a Tobacco-Free Albania; and all the international groups that supplied vital information to county SWAT groups. Kudos also to GPTC advisory board memberd Witold Zatonski of Poland, who was featured in a video, and David Simpson, who charmed SWAT members with his British accent, Tobacco CEO disguise (complete with Pinocchio nose), and demonstration of the "addictive" nature of Gummy Bears.