KSBA eNews Service, Frankfort, Sept. 16, 2014
State education, health chiefs call on superintendents
to champion tobacco-free campuses
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and the head of the state public health agency are making a second push to get more districts to adopt total bans on tobacco use on school campuses.
In letters sent Monday to the state's 173 superintendents, Holliday and Kentucky Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield Gibson called on local leaders to "100 percent tobacco free school policies."
The letter notes that 35 districts have passed such policies. According to KSBA's Policy and Procedure Service, most of those board policies apply to students, staff, bus drivers and visitors, covering inside and outside school buildings and district vehicles. Additionally, 11 other districts have campus tobacco use restrictions, some which apply only to students and staff, not visitors.
In 2011, Holliday and then-Public Health Commissioner William Hacker sent a similar leter to superintendents.
"Providing for the safety of students and developing lifelong learning skills are key components of every school. Is your school district doing everything it can to protect youth against the number one cause of preventable death in the United States and Kentucky? Has your school district passed a 100 percent tobacco-free school policy? If so, we applaud and thank you; and if not, please let us share with you why youth tobacco use is such a concern," Holliday and Mayfield said in the letter.
"Thanks in part to strong efforts by schools, youth smoking in Kentucky has decreased from 24.1 percent in 2011 to the current rate of 17.9 percent according to the 2013 Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey. More work needs to be done, however, as 47 percent of high school students have tried smoking at least once and 13.2 percent have used smokeless tobacco. While smoking on school property has decreased, smoke exposure on school property can be dangerous to students and staff. Tobacco-free school policies are one way your school can help reduce youth smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke," the commissioners said.
"A 100 percent tobacco-free school policy prohibits tobacco use by staff, students, and visitors 24 hours a day, seven days a week, inside board-owned buildings or vehicles, on school-owned property and during schoolsponsored student trips and activities. A 100 percent tobacco-free school policy reflects a firm commitment by school administration, teachers and parents to provide students, personnel, and community members a safe, tobacco-free environment. Tobacco-free schools give adults the opportunity to be role models for tobacco-free lifestyles and set the tone for reduced social acceptance of tobacco use. In addition, studies show that students in tobacco-free schools are less likely to start smoking. Surveys of parents, staff, and students find overwhelming support for tobacco-free school policies," Holliday and Mayfield wrote. "Passing a 100 percent tobacco-free school policy is important for your school and your students. We encourage you to pass and implement a policy today."
The letter comes 11 days after Gov. Steve Beshear issued an executive order expanding a 2006 ban on smoking inside state buildings to include surrounding property such as sidewalks, lawns and parking lots, while extending it to include all forms of tobacco such as snuff, chew or e-cigarettes.