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Schools Have Tobacco Free Lesson for Legislature

Warren County Public Schools have had a tobacco free policy in place for two years. Now, lawmakers are considering a statewide rule. (Warren County Public Schools)
Warren County Public Schools have had a tobacco free policy in place for two years. Now, lawmakers are considering a statewide rule. (Warren County Public Schools)
February 20, 2017

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – While legislation is moving through the General Assembly to make all public schools in the Bluegrass State tobacco free, some school districts haven't waited for state lawmakers to get on the health bandwagon.

For example, Warren County Public Schools have been smoke free since the summer of 2015 – an idea Superintendent Rob Clayton says was first suggested by students at Cumberland Trace Elementary, one of the district's 24 schools.

"We teach our students everyday about the importance of good decision making and about living a healthy lifestyle,” he relates. “And our tobacco policy, I believe, sends a clear and consistent message to our community about, not only the dangers of tobacco, but it also is consistent with what we teach our students in the classroom."

With 62 school districts tobacco free, the legislation would require the remaining two-thirds to join them by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.

The Senate passed the bill 25 to 8, sending it to the House. Critics of the legislation maintain it should remain a local decision.

The legislation would prohibit the use of tobacco products, including in school vehicles, and at all school activities, by students, staff and visitors.

Clayton says the policy has not been difficult to enforce in Warren County, noting schools do not take a punitive approach toward enforcement, rather educating those who violate the policy – almost always adults at outdoor activities.

"One of the things that helps, when you don't see others doing it, I think it serves as a deterrent for others,” he points out. “A couple times where I've had to intervene I think it was actually a little embarrassing for the individual."

Clayton says when the Warren County school board passed the policy two years ago, the lone board member who voted "no" said there should be a designated, outdoor smoking area on school grounds for adults.

One of the state's leading health advocacy organizations, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, has sent a letter
to school superintendents across the state urging them to move forward now, saying "there's no reason to wait."

Kentucky has the second highest youth smoking rate, with 17 percent of high school students smoking regularly.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY