The second annual Not A Lab Rat Day is (Wednesday) Oct. 16. This year Students Working Against Tobacco, or SWAT, wants other teens to know that when it to comes to e-cigarettes, or vaping products, history is repeating itself.

E-cigarette companies use the same tricks—flavors and marketing campaigns—tobacco companies used for decades to target and recruit young smokers. Not a surprise, considering Big Tobacco companies own or have significantly invested in e-cigarette companies. These are the same tobacco companies that for decades lied about the addictiveness and health effects of cigarettes.

SWAT is Florida’s youth-led movement to combat Big Tobacco. Not A Lab Rat Day is a statewide initiative that empowers youth to stand up and declare that they refuse to be the tobacco and e-cigarette industry’s “lab rats,” as we wait and see the longterm health effects of vaping.

SWAT chapters across the state are holding events at their schools and in their communities to dispel myths and educate their peers about the e-cigarette industry’s connection to Big Tobacco. In DeSoto County, the SWAT chapter is working on a few initiatives, including poster campaigns, educational booths and peer collaboration. DeSoto SWAT Youth recently created and mailed postcards directly to JUUL asking them to quit marketing and selling to their peers. Our local SWAT clubs are really working hard to spread the word and prove that when it comes to tobacco use and marketing, history is most certainly repeating itself.

Here are the facts:

Marlboro cigarette maker Altria purchased a 35 percent stake in JUUL for $12.8 billion in December 2018.

Imperial Brands, the makers of Winston and Kool, owns the e-cigarette brand Blu.

RJ. Reynolds, the makers of Newport and Camel, owns the e-cigarette brand Vuse.

“We do not know what Big Tobacco’s involvement means for the future of e-cigarettes, but we do know the Big Tobacco cannot be trusted,” said Jodie DeLoach, community health advocate. “That’s why we’re sharing the facts, educating our community, and standing up to the tobacco industry."

Youth vaping has increased dramatically across the country, including right here in DeSoto County. E-cigarette companies claim their products are intended for adults, but alarming rates among teens tell a different story. About 25 percent of Florida high school students are vapingviii compared to 4 percent of Florida adults.

Participants in Not A Lab Rat Day events will complete placards stating that they will not be “lab rats.” SWAT plans to send placards collected statewide to the headquarters of major e-cigarette companies.

For more information, visit swatflorida.com/not-a-lab-rat

About Not A Lab Rat Day

Observed annually on the third Wednesday of October to bring awareness to e-cigarette use among youth, encourage youth to stand up against Big Tobacco and the e-cigarette industry, and to push for change within their communities.

About Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT)

Florida’s statewide youth organization working to mobilize, educate and equip Florida youth to revolt against and de-glamorize Big Tobacco and the e-cigarette industry. SWAT is a united movement of empowered youth working towards a tobacco free future.

To learn more about Students Working Against Tobacco, visit www.swatflorida.com, or follow us on Instagram at @swatflorida

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