Tobacco-Free Lee Coalition distributing free tickets to Miracle game
The Tobacco-Free Lee Coalition is partnering with the Fort Myers Miracle to distribute 10,000 free baseball tickets for a game against the Saint Lucie Mets.
The coalition, organized through the Lee County Health Department, works with the community to stress the dangers of using tobacco products. Its specific mission with the Miracle is to educate youth on the dangers of sweet-flavored tobacco products marketed like candy.
“This is a project of the coalition to bring awareness of the problems of marketing tobacco products to the youth,” said Jennifer James-Mesloh, spokesperson for Lee County Health Department. “The companies have enhanced the flavor of these tobacco products and market them candy-flavored so they lure in the youth.”
James-Mesloh explained that tobacco companies are attempting to have adolescents and young adults develop a habit of using their products.
The Florida Legislature enacted a bill to impose a $1 tobacco user fee which went into effect on July 1, 2009, and last September the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned a number of flavored cigarettes that were specifically marketed to children.
According to adolescent behavioral survey collected by the Florida Department of Health and posted for the public on FloridaCharts.com, 5.8 percent of students in middle school and 18.5 percent in high school admitted to smoking cigarettes in the 30 days before the survey.
Statewide, that amount is 5 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively.
“In both instances, Lee County is above state average,” said James-Mesloh.
The information posted by the Florida Department of Health is from 2008 and James-Mesloh said officials are currently in the process of administering a new survey for 2010.
Tickets for the May 7 game at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers are available at the Lee County Health Department on 3920 Michigan Ave., Fort Myers, on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The first 750 fans will receive a free stadium seat cushion.
Many of the tickets are also being given to principals of elementary, middle and high schools in Lee County, who in turn will distribute them to students. James-Mesloh said fans can get as many tickets as they want, but those from the general public should receive them at the Health Department.
Tobacco-Free Lee invited former California Angels baseball player Rick Bender to throw out the first pitch. Bender had a majority of his jaw removed after developing cancer from years of using smokeless tobacco products.
During the game, he will also talk to children about the dangers of tobacco and how companies are marketing candy-flavored tobacco to children.
According to national reports, tobacco companies are finding new ways to market their products to youth, including a product released by R.J. Reynolds. The Camel “Orbs” are tobacco mints that resemble Tic-Tacs in their size and shape, and which come in various flavors.