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Health advocates partner to provide districts free signs

Tobacco-free policy

Kentucky School Advocate
September 2019
 
Staff report

More than 130 Kentucky school districts have now adopted 100 percent tobacco-free policies – and that means many districts will have to post signs on buildings and district-owned cars.

Thanks to a new partnership among the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky (FHky), the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care (KFMC), districts can get the signs required under Kentucky’s new tobacco-free schools law for free. 

The signage will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to districts that adopt a new tobacco-free schools policy after April 2019, when House Bill 11, the new law, was signed. The program will be expanded in January 2020 to include school districts that previously passed tobacco-free schools policies but want to refresh their campus and vehicle signage. 

“At a time when state funding for education is extremely limited, these types of partnerships are critical in easing the burden on local communities,” said KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling at a press conference announcing the program. “KSBA is proud to work with these groups on the signage project as supporters of House Bill 11 and in the interest of student and staff health to combat the vaping epidemic.”

According to the latest data, more than one in four Kentucky 12th-graders used e-cigarettes in 2018. And one in seven middle schoolers smoked e-cigarettes, said Ben Chandler, FHKy’s president and CEO. The new law is designed to protect students from second-hand smoke and reduce youth tobacco use, he said.  

“Schools should be a safe haven for kids and teens from the sights and smells of smoking, vaping and dip,” he said.

Before the law was passed, 72 Kentucky school districts had gone tobacco-free, since then 130 school districts have adopted the tobacco-free policy. More than 75 percent of districts are now tobacco-free.

The partnership expects to have enough signs to meet the needs of all districts that recently adopted the policy, said Dr. Shawn Jones, KFMC president.

“Our hope is that offering the signage first to the 58 percent of school districts that hadn’t previously gone tobacco-free will be an incentive to move quickly for budget-conscious school boards that want to protect student health but are struggling with how to pay for the mandated signage.”

The program will continue until July 1, 2020, the deadline for schools to adopt the new policy, or until signage runs out. The model policy prohibits the use of all tobacco products at all times on school campuses and in school vehicles. It also prohibits tobacco use by school officials on field trips when students are present. The law does not prohibit adult use of nicotine replacement therapy products for tobacco cessation.

“We are extremely grateful to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care and the Kentucky Medical Association for their investments of time and money to help offset the cost of tobacco-free school signage in our public schools,” Schelling said. 
 
Top Photo: Bellevue Ind. Superintendent Robb Smith, Kentucky Medical Association President Dr. Bruce Scott, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President and CEO Ben Chandler and KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling announcing the signs at a press conference at KSBA.
 
Bottom Photo: Graves County students Abbi Stratton and Kendall Tubbs, who spoke about the importance of tobacoo-free schools, color in Graves County on a map displaying districts who have adopted 100 percent tobacco-free policies. 

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