Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 21, 2013

Tobacco ban beefed up

TAZEWELL, Va. — The use of tobacco products is now prohibited at all schools, and school-related facilities and activities, in Tazewell County.

The new tobacco-free school campus policy will be enforced 24-7 and includes any building, facility, or vehicle owned, leased, rented or charted by the school system. 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 tobacco policy also will 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 Wednesday. “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.”

Lawson said the new policy takes effect immediately. It replaces the school system’s old tobacco policy that only addressed students and staff, and normal school hours. 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.

“We are trying to set the example and be good role models,” Lawson said. “We have been busy doing the (new) signage that welcomes our visitors to our school campuses and the sign also thanks them for keeping our students and staff healthy. I have received many positive comments from our folks associated with the American Lung Association commending our board for taking this initiative. I think you are going to see other school systems follow. I just think it is imperative that we promote positive roles models in our schools and that we promote a healthy learning and work environment.”

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.

And parents or guardians also will be notified of the violations and actions taken by the school system.

School system employees who violate the tobacco policy could face a verbal warning, written reprimand or termination of employment. Visitors using tobacco products in return will be asked to refrain from such usage while on school property — including athletic fields — or to leave the school property. Law enforcement officers can be contacted to escort visitors off of the premises or cite the person for trespassing if he or she refuses to leave the school property, according to the policy.

Lawson said the school board is hopeful that parents and community members will embrace the new policy.

“We live in such a wonderful area, and we have wonderful parents and community members,” she said. “They support our students in all of their endeavors — academically and athletically. I just know this isn’t going to be a problem. I just think it is such a good thing that people will join us and join the board, and maybe it will spill not only to our schools, but also within our communities.”

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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