February 22, 2017

City Council Chamber

Ground Floor, City Hall

117 W. Duval Street


Immediately following the PHS Committee Meeting


Attendance:   Council Members: Sam Newby (Chair), Bill Gulliford (Vice Chair), Aaron Bowman, Anna Lopez Brosche, Tommy Hazouri, Katrina Brown; Council Member Joyce Morgan was excused; Assistant General Counsel Paige Johnston; Assistant Council Auditor Kyle Billy; Jordan Elsbury, Administration; John J. Jackson, Colleen Hampsey, Council Research Division; Legislative Assistant Samantha Lane.


The Chair called the Special Meeting to order at 10:33 and announced that the topic for the Special Meeting was tobacco and opiate addiction.


Allison Hewitt, State of Florida/Duval Health Department, provided the Committee with an update on the Zika virus and steps that the Health Department is undertaking to address the opiate epidemic.


April Seliga gave a “Tobacco 21” PowerPoint presentation on the campaign to raise the legal age for smoking from 18 to 21 throughout the country.


A major problem in people becoming addicted to smoking tobacco is the fact that 95% of smokers have had their first cigarette before the age of 21.  25% of youth today are smoking.  Nicotine addiction negatively impacts teenagers’ brains.  Young people are likely to smoke cigarettes for the sensation feeling and because of peer pressure.


Ms. Seliga discussed the successful initiative in Needham, Massachusetts that reduced teen and adult smoking, with a commiserate reduction in smoking-related health problems.


Ms. Seliga indicated that Council Vice President John Crescimbeni has indicated his willingness in assisting Tobacco 21 by working to enact a T21 ordinance.  Council Member Tommy Hazouri wondered if local governments can legislate restrictions of age limitations for smoking or alcohol.  He was under the impression that this was the purview of the State lawmakers.



The Committee heard a presentation by Richard Preston on his transformation from drug addict to a recovered alcoholic and drug addict and now author of the book Serenity Granted.


A Jacksonville native, Mr. Preston excelled in public schools and is a 1982 graduate of Jacksonville University.  Early on, in his teens, he began to drink and smoke; he subsequently began snorting cocaine.  While working for State Farm Insurance, he smoked crack cocaine on a daily basis.  He recounted how his “demons” (i.e. crack cocaine) cost him his State Farm job.


Mr. Preston recounted his life as a homeless addict who often lived in the woods.  At one point, he was permanently banned from the Jacksonville public library downtown.  He spoke of the irony of his having a book signing event at the Jacksonville public library downtown later in the evening.


While an addict, he had suicide attempts and had been arrested 22 times.


He spoke of four stages for a life that is free from addiction: recuperation, restoration, regeneration and reintegration.


He described the link between drugs and crime.


Today, Mr. Preston speaks to various civic groups, youth organizations and a host of other venues to tell his story.  He has appeared on radio programs such as First Coast Connect.  The publication of a second book is looming.


Council Member Bill Gulliford invited Mr. Preston to attend a meeting that he is convening on March 9th to discuss the opiate overdose crisis.


The Committee next heard a brief presentation from Susan Pittman from Drug Free Duval on the work and initiatives that her organization does in striving to make the opiate overdose and heroin crisis a community conversation.  She wants her organization to be the convener of this conversation.

Drug Free Duval works with the faith-based community, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department and others.



There being no further business, the Special Meeting was adjourned at 11:35 a.m.


John J. Jackson, Council Research Division (904) 630-1729



Posted: 4:00 p.m.