no-smokeMADISONVILLE, Ky. (7/22/14) — A report from Lisa Miller of the Hopkins County Health Department at Monday night's school board meeting indicated a downward trend in student tobacco use and offered recommendations to make all Hopkins County School's property fully tobacco-free.

“Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease in the United States,” Miller said. “There is a lot of research that shows that a policy like this can actually help children not start to smoke or at least delay the age they start smoking.”

The planned change would join Hopkins County Schools with 34 other 100 percent tobacco-free school districts in the state of Kentucky. Statewide initiatives have seen Kentucky drop to sixth in youth smoking after previously ranking first, according to Miller.

The ban on tobacco use would apply to students, staff, visitors and contracted workers on or in school property or at a school-sponsored event. The model policy also forbids the use of alternative nicotine products and vapor products.

“Children mirror the behavior of the adults they see,” Miller said. “When they see the adults, who should be their role models, there using tobacco at the football stadium, they're going to start believing it is acceptable behavior.”

The current policy of the school board allows staff to smoke in their cars in parking lots.

According to Miller, schools where tobacco use is banned on the premises boast higher achievement and lower rates of absenteeism. She offered evidence of correlation between grades and tobacco use, citing a study on Kentucky high school health and academic achievement that placed the percentage of A students, who had used tobacco in the past month, at 13.7 percent and the percentage of D and F students, who had used tobacco in the past month, at 60.4 percent.

Miller also presented evidence Hopkins County students in grades eight, 10 and 12 have seen progressively less tobacco use since 2004. Sixth graders have seen an overall downward trend.

Miller's model suggests introducing the regulations during the 2014-2015 school year and allowing the school community time to acclimate to it, using signage and reminders of the policy to those seen in violation. Truly tobacco-free schools would begin at the start of the 2015-2016 school year.

“You're not asking them not to smoke. You're just asking them not to smoke on school grounds,” Miller said.

Other items on the board's agenda included approval of hires and retirement, approval of a 3 percent salary increase for Superintendent Linda Zellich, and the purchase of 955 Chromebooks for the district in a shift away from iPads to save costs.

The board will meet again Aug. 8.

Ami Clayton
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