Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 26, 2013

Tobacco-free schools — Tazewell policy a positive move

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— While it probably won’t make everyone happy, the new tobacco-free school campus policy recently enacted by the Tazewell County School Board is a positive step aimed at protecting youngsters from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

The new policy basically prohibits the use of tobacco products at all schools and school-related facilities and activities in Tazewell County. The tobacco ban also includes all school grounds and property owned, leased, rented or chartered by the school system. That includes Ernie Hicks Stadium in Richlands, Bulldog Stadium in Tazewell and Mitchell Stadium in Bluefield.

The policy will be enforced around the clock, and also includes any building, facility or vehicle owned, leased, rented or chartered by the school system. The tobacco policy will also be enforced at any school-sponsored or school-related event on campus or off campus.

“Basically tobacco is prohibited 24-7 and that includes non-school hours,” School Superintendent Dr. Brenda Lawson said last week. “The reason, and the purpose behind this, is that the school board recognizes the use of tobacco products is a health, safety and environmental hazard for students, employees and visitors and school facilities. I am just so proud of our board for stepping up and taking the lead on tobacco. The research on second-hand smoke is just troubling.”

The new policy prohibits students, and school division employees, school volunteers, contractors and other persons performing services on behalf of the school system from using tobacco products at any time while they are on duty and in the presence of students, either on or off school grounds. It defines a “tobacco product” as cigarettes, cigars, blunts, bidis, pipes, chewing tobacco, snuff and any other items containing or reasonably resembling tobacco or tobacco products.

The policy also includes enforcement options. Students found in violation of the policy will be referred to a guidance counselor, school nurse or other health and counseling services. School system employees who violate the policy could face a verbal warning, written reprimand or termination of employment. And visitors using tobacco products will be asked to refrain from such usage while on school property — including athletic fields — or to leave the school property. Police can be contacted if a person who is asked to leave refuses to do so, according to the policy.

The five-elected school board members are to be applauded for taking a stand against the dangers of second-hand smoke. The policy also serves the dual purpose of helping to keep children from picking up a bad habit at an early age. If they are exposed to others who are smoking or chewing tobacco, they may pick up the bad habit at an early age.

When football season rolls around again, there will undoubtedly be some who are unhappy when they are told they can’t smoke or chew tobacco at their respective athletic fields. But we would hope most citizens would honor the new policy, and set a good example for students.