Tobacco Free Florida: A History
The Tobacco Florida Free initiative was created in 2007. An amendment to the state’s constitution established the legal framework to create an all-encompassing tobacco education and prevention campaign to get Floridians to quit smoking. Since its beginning in 2007 Tobacco Free Florida can proudly proclaim that it has helped over 159,000 Floridians quit smoking for good.
How It All Started
Florida was one of the first states to institute a statewide quit smoking program (along with Texas, Minnesota and Mississippi). In the late 90s, state governments across the country brought lawsuits against major tobacco companies alleging fraud and racketeering.
After settlements were reached between the state governments and the tobacco industry the decision was made to use the money won from the settlements to fund government mandated tobacco cessation programs. One of the first ones was Tobacco Free Florida.
The Tobacco Free Florida program has had successes all over Florida when it comes to their quit smoking campaigns that have been in place since 2007.
- 159,000 people in Florida have quit smoking as a direct result of Tobacco Free Florida’s intensive prevention and education campaign.
- The passage of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, which Tobacco Free Florida pushed for, that made it harder for people to smoke in enclosed workplaces.
- A $1 tax increase on the sale of tobacco around the state which lead to a significant reduction in smokers statewide.
- The adult smoking rate in 2015 was at 15.8 percent, which was down from 2006 when it was 21 percent.
- Smoking among young people has dropped from 10.6 percent in 2006 to 3 percent in 2016 – which is a staggering 71 percent reduction in youth smoking.
- TFF saved Florida $3.2 billion in healthcare costs related to treating illnesses associated with smoking.
- Healthcare costs in Florida have decreased 15 percent since 2006 as a result of fewer people smoking.
Tobacco Free Florida still rolls out what it calls “hard-hitting” media campaigns that are targeted heavily towards young people and have prevention as their main goal.
- One of their more famous commercials featured a dissected brain that had a blood clot in the center of it, a blood clot brought on by smoking.
- Tobacco Free Florida continues to make use of traditional media platforms, like billboards and posters that show images of bodily organs adversely affected by smoking.
- Tobacco Free Florida also does a lot of work on the ground, including visiting major sporting events and music festivals with Smokifier Vans that use age-progression software to show people how they will look like in the future if they continue to smoke.
Recently, Tobacco Free Florida implemented a statewide initiative called Quit Your Way. It is a three-pronged approach:
- Telephone hotlines offer advice and tips on how to quit.
- Local support groups headed by trained facilitators give out free nicotine replacement therapy packages.
- An online portal offers virtual support for those looking to quit smoking.
The Future of Tobacco Free Florida
While Tobacco Free Florida can claim many victories in getting people to quit smoking in Florida, there is still a lot of work to be done. Tobacco use stands out as the primary cause for preventable death and disease in the US and more than 480,000 Americans die each year because of tobacco use.
Now that e-cigarettes are growing in popularity around the country and since studies have shown increases in their use especially in young people Tobacco Free Florida, like many other tobacco control and anti-smoking organizations around the country, have their work cut out for them.