News and Events

Dixie County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members Participate in Not a Lab Rat Day!
Ociotober 18, 2023

The sixth annual “Not A Lab Rat Day” was October 18,2023.  Dixie County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) put focus on the tobacco industry’s increasing usage of social media to target youth and promote products that are addictive and pose serious health risks.

According to the Tobacco Free Florida’s SWAT Not A Lab Rat Day Press Release:

 “Social media has become a staple of everyday life, especially for younger generations. The tobacco industry is aware of this and utilizes social media to generate buzzworthy content that can influence youth to start using their products. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 73.5% of students who use social media reported viewing e-cigarette content.

To generate content, tobacco companies use influencers and sponsored content. Vape advertisements shared by influencers rarely included warning labels about the addictive potential of nicotine, feature imagery that appeals to youth, and defy federal advertising regulations such as failing to disclose brand relationships, a requirement by the FTC.  Influencers are often invited by companies to serve as brand ambassadors to promote their tobacco products. They rarely use the Instagram feature that restricts youth access, despite the post claiming the content is for 18+ or 21+. Even if influencers follow this guideline, teenagers can easily get around age restrictions by creating a profile with a fake age. Tobacco companies also sponsor and hold events designed to connect with younger audiences, allowing them to promote the event on social media and promote their products by extension. These events often spare no expense in order to attract new customers.

In 2022, 15.2% of high school students in Florida reported actively using e-cigarettes, while 6.6% of middle school students did the same.  While usage rates in Florida are continuing to trend in the right direction, there is still work to be done to end the youth e-cigarette epidemic. When this year’s Not a Lab Rat Day kicks off, SWAT members will be energized and ready to put the tobacco industry on blast for their use of social media to target youth.”

The Dixie County High School SWAT Club created a display that highlighted Not A Lab Rat Day at the high school.  A “Vapers Graveyard” had headstones with smoking and vaping facts to be read by all students and staff.  Such as “The brain continues to develop until about age 25 and the developing brain is more vulnerable to nicotine’s effects, including reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders.”

Ruth Rains Middle School SWAT Club me and made posters about Not A Lab Rat Day that were posted around the school for all students and staff to view. The posters highlighted how the tobacco and vape industry uses social media to target youth.

“For Not A Lab Rat Day this year, we remain as committed as ever to pushing back against Big Tobacco and their efforts to create a new generation of users hooked on their products,” said Jordan Butler, Ruth Rains Middle School SWAT Advisor “The Tobacco industry knows just how influential social media can be on youth, and they are determined to lure and tempt youth to try their products by any means necessary. We need to call out these efforts and make sure youth across the state put Big Tobacco on “mute”.