News and Events

Tobacco Free Partnership Kicks Off New Year
August 23, 2016

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Columbia County is trying something new this year and is switching to a quarterly meeting with hopes to increase attendance and collaboration among Partners.

The first meeting this quarter was held on August 23, 2016 at Lake Shore Hospital Authority and laid the groundwork for a busy year. Joseph O’Hern the Columbia County Tobacco Prevention Specialist commented, “Last year was all about building relationships in the community. We met a lot of great people and worked to lay the foundation for a successful program. This year we hope to build on that.”

The Partnership has a lot lined up this year with the Snow Day 5k, Olustee Festival, Relay for Life, community health fairs and more! “We really want to ramp up our ‘boots on the ground’ efforts this year and start recruiting and empowering new partners.” At a recent Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida workshop training it was stressed the importance of being more productive. It’s not only about quantity, rather the quality of the members that you have at your table. “Tobacco prevention is an issue that is in one way or another connected to each of us. I want to bring to the people who are passionate about it and want to join the fight,” added O’Hern.

A portion of the recent Tobacco Free Partnership meeting consisted of a mini Point-of-Sale presentation.  Recently, Columbia County Tobacco Prevention staff attended a two-day training on Point-of-Sale hosted by Counter Tools and the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida. At this training, staff were trained on Big Tobacco’s deceptive marketing and advertising techniques to better appeal to youth, non-smokers and even smokers who are trying to quit. Advertisements are plastered on gas pumps, in parking lots and inside the stores everywhere.

In fact, the tobacco industry spends one million dollars per hour and $8.7 billion dollars a year on tobacco advertising. Tobacco retailers cluster in already disadvantaged neighborhoods, they prompt kids to start smoking, make it harder for people to quit and distract people from a healthier way of living. So in an effort to move towards policy change within our retail outlets, the Partnership and Tobacco Staff will be conducting store audits on close to 100 tobacco retail outlets in Columbia County. The results of this audit will be added to a mapper tool that we can utilize to show the density of retailers, the distance the retailer is from a school, compliance check data, and much more, which can assist with policy change efforts in Columbia County.

O’Hern commented,” We have our work cut out for us the next few months with store audits, but I’m really looking forward to getting local data and being able to use to enact policy change and change social norms here in Columbia County.”

If you are interested in working on point-of-sale initiatives or any aspect of the Tobacco Free Partnership, please feel free to contact for more information.