Moving forward on tobacco

Published 6:56 am Friday, February 1, 2019

The Commonwealth and the nation are making progress on tobacco. Progress comes in the form of reducing usage and also making this lethal product less attractive to those who’ve never used it or who are inclined to go back to using it after quitting.

One small example can be found in our schools. … Daily Independent reporter Rachel Adkins detailed how local school superintendents are in support of a statewide tobacco-free schools law that is being advocated for in Frankfort by superintendents and health advocates. The group is working on bills in the House and Senate, from Rep. Kim Moser and Sen. Ralph Alvarado, which urged their colleagues to support and protect youth and teens by enacting this youth health measure.

Speakers addressed the skyrocketing rates of teen “Juuling” and vaping as well as newfound support from superintendents and school boards as impetus for passing a law in Kentucky in 2019. House Bill 11 and Senate Bill 27 would bar the use of tobacco products both on and in property owned by Kentucky school districts.

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The law would apply to all persons at all times while on campus, including vehicles owned by the district anywhere they travel and vehicles while they are on school property. It also would apply to events on school-owned property 24/7.

In Kentucky, 42 percent of school districts covering 57 percent of students have enacted 100 percent tobacco-free schools policies.

Boyd County Superintendent Bill Boblett said the district has been tobacco-free for a long time, noting he thinks the law is a great idea.

“We know the negative effects of tobacco on students especially,” Boblett said.

Ashland Independent Schools Superintendent Sean Howard said his district has also had a tobacco-free policy for quite some time now. Greenup County Superintendent Sherry Horsley said the district does have a tobacco-free policy in place for students and faculty, but noted there is currently not a policy in place for areas like sporting events.

Some facts we all need to be reminded of (and which we can never be reminded enough of) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking and for every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.

• Stunningly, nearly 6 million deaths per year are attributed to tobacco use. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States.

• On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than those who don’t smoke.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 90 percent of tobacco use starts by age 18; Kentucky’s youth tobacco use rates significantly exceed national averages.

Meanwhile, the nation, and Kentucky are making progress on deterring this deadly, terribly addictive drug. A recently passed 50 cent tax on cigarettes has helped slow down smoking, according to a recent Kentucky Health Issues poll.

Passing this legislation barring all tobacco use on school property is a no-brainer. Is it largely symbolic to a certain degree? Yes. However, anything we can do to send the message to our children that tobacco is a lethal habit not tolerated in school settings will benefit kids over the long haul.

The Daily Independent of Ashland