Schools halfway tobacco-free

By: - July 6, 2005 5:16 am

Asheboro Courier-Tribune

By Kathi Keys — Staff Writer, The Courier-Tribune

ASHEBORO – A rally is being held today in Raleigh to celebrate the halfway point for school districts – many in this area – which are 100 percent tobacco free.

The celebration will applaud the 58 school districts that have adopted 100 percent tobacco-free policies and challenge the remaining 57 systems to do the same.

The N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund (HWTF) is hosting the celebration and pep rally from 9:30-10 a.m. on the south side of the State Capitol in Raleigh.

N.C. Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, HWTF chair, will be joined by Howard Lee, chair of the State Board of Education and former state senator representing Randolph County, as well as school district representatives and other education and community leaders, teens and tobacco use prevention advocates for the celebration.

A 100 percent Tobacco-Free Schools policy prohibits tobacco use by anyone, anywhere at anytime on school property and at school-related events.

Asheboro City Schools is among those with a 100 percent tobacco-free schools policy which went into effect July 1, 2003, for the 2003-04 school year.

The tobacco-free policy applies to all students, school employees and school visitors on school grounds and everyone while in their vehicles on school property.

Prior to the policy, students were prohibited from smoking on school grounds while employees had designated outdoor areas away from the sight of students. The public wasn’t prohibited from smoking at school events such as football games.

The tobacco-free policy prohibits everyone from smoking or using any tobacco products on school grounds, including at football games or outside school buildings.

"The transition was very smooth," said Dr. Tim Allgood, city schools’ assistant superintendent of human resources, who coordinated the effort. Communication was an important key to implementation of the new policy.

"It’s been a smooth two years," he added about what he and other administrators have observed about the policy.

Chatham County Schools also instituted its tobacco-free policy in 2003 and Moore County Schools’ policy went into effect last year.

Montgomery County Schools’ tobacco-free policy goes into effect Jan. 1, 2006. The Montgomery County Board of Education adopted a smoke-free policy in December 2004 that prohibits use of all tobacco products on all school property and at all school-related activities.

Until then, smoking will be allowed by visitors at Montgomery’s outdoor events, such as ball games, but in designated areas only. Tobacco use by students and staff on school property has been prohibited for the past two years.

When the policy goes into effect, it will apply to all students, staff and visitors in school buildings, anywhere on campuses, in vehicles and during all school events – every person on school property for any reason, including work crews. It will be in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Montgomery Schools Superintendent Dr. Lindsay Suggs said they were not telling anyone to quit smoking, but they would have to refrain from using tobacco products at school-related events.

Randolph County Schools has not yet pursued a 100 percent tobacco-free policy.

However, smoking is prohibited in all school buildings. Students are not allowed to smoke on school property; school employees have designated areas, out of students’ sight, to smoke.

HWTF funds programs that promote preventive health. Created by the General Assembly in 2000 to allocate a portion of North Carolina’s share of the national tobacco settlement, it has invested $127 million to support preventive health initiatives and $78 million to fund a prescription drug assistance program.

Since HWTF began funding local teen tobacco prevention use programs in 2002, 43 of the 115 school districts have adopted 100 percent Tobacco-Free Schools policies, bringing the statewide total to 58. Fifteen school districts previously established such policies, starting in 1988.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200,000 young people under the age of 18 alive today in North Carolina will die prematurely because of tobacco-related illnesses.

Staff writer Mary Anderson contributed to this article.

Contact staff writer Kathi Keys at 626-6121 or email her at .

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066