Martin County Students Working Against Tobacco Help Pass an Ordinance Restricting Self Service Tobacco
By Dr. Barry Hummel, Jr., Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation

On March 1, 2011, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners passed a new local ordinance restricting the sale of self-service tobacco throughout Martin County.  This ordinance was the culmination of several months of work by the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) clubs and the Tobacco Free Partnership of Martin County.
The need for such an ordinance was recognized during a surveillance project conducted by SWAT clubs during the spring of 2010. 

The SWAT youth collected data of local tobacco retailers using the StoreALERT survey which is a nationally recognized program coordinated through the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.  The StoreALERT report card is a systematic way to evaluate both interior and exterior tobacco advertising at local retailers, as well as the placement of tobacco products within those stores.

The SWAT youth in Martin County discovers that about 10% of all tobacco retailers still offer self-service tobacco.  Further analysis revealed that 57% of age-restricted liquor stores and specialty tobacco stores carried self-service tobacco.  Approximately 10% of youth-friendly convenience stores and gas stations sold self-service tobacco.  None of the other tobacco retailers, including supermarkets, grocery stores, discount stores, drug stores, and pharmacies, was found to offer self-service tobacco.

The SWAT youth and the Tobacco Free Partnership concluded that there was a unique issue with convenience stores and gas stations offering self-service tobacco.

As the group began to look for solutions, a second key issue was identified.  During the fall of 2010, several public schools participated in a survey on campus tobacco issues in recognition of the Great American Smoke Out.  As part of the survey, students were asked to self-identify if they were tobacco users, and report where they obtained their tobacco. Over 1,200 students participated.

Among all high school and middle school students who used tobacco in the previous month, 26.8% admitted to stealing it.  Among high school students alone, that number dropped to 17.9%.  Among middle school students, however, an astounding 34.5% admitted to stealing their tobacco.

On December 8, 2010, three of the SWAT students from Martin County High School (Emily Garrett, Megan Koenig, and Kelly Barrera) reported these finding to the Shared Service Network Executive Round Table.  The Shared Services Network is a local coalition made up of community leaders working on youth substance abuse prevention.  Some of the key members of the Executive Round Table include Sheriff Robert Crowder, County Commissioner Edward Ciampi, County Administrator Taryn Kryzda, and School Superintendent Nancy Kline.

MCHS SWAT Students

The SWAT students made the case that the availability of self-service tobacco in youth-friendly stores made it easier for students to steal tobacco to start or maintain their addiction.  Immediately following the presentation, the Executive Round Table members voted unanimously to support an ordinance restricting the sale of self-service tobacco in Martin County.

After the Executive Round Table Meeting, the Tobacco Free Partnership researched similar ordinances in the surrounding counties.  Martin County was the only county in the Treasure Coast that did not have a product placement ordinance.  The Partnership submitted the comprehensive product placement ordinance used in Palm Beach County as a sample, suggesting modifications to allow adult only stores (liquor stores and specialty tobacco stores) to continue to carry self-service tobacco.


Martin County Commissioners

Commissioner Edward Ciampi and County Administrator Taryn Kryzda championed the ordinance, which had its final hearing on March 1, 2011.  Martin County High School Students Emily Garrett and Kelly Barrera presented the results of their local surveillance at that time, after which the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the product placement ordinance.

Several months of hard work by these dedicated SWAT students made it possible to pass the first local tobacco ordinance in Martin County.  More importantly, their efforts demonstrated to many concerned adults how local policy change can make a difference in preventing youth substance abuse,  Best of all, the County Commission and the SWAT youth are looking forward to working together on other challenging issues in the future!

Click here to read a Stuart News article about the passage of the ordinance.

Click Here to read a Stuart News article about Emily Garrett and Kelly Barrera and their work on the passage of the ordinance.

Click here to view the entire presentation at the March 1, 2011 meeting of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners. You can scroll down to agenda item 9A to view the presentation.