School board in Henry County, including tobacco farmers, will consider a comprehensive smoking ban on its campuses

The Henry County school superintendent got a unanimous go-ahead from his board to present a draft policy to make the district 100 percent tobacco-free, but the board made no promises, Melissa Blankenship reports for the Henry County Local.

Wikipedia map locates Henry County

“We’ve talked about this for a couple of years now,” Supt. Tim Abrams said at the board’s October meeting. “I’m asking the board before I go down the path of working on policy and procedures, if this is something we want to pursue. I could present a draft policy to you in November and if approved, I would like it to go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.”

The current tobacco policy, in place since 2011, only applies to students and allows adult employees to smoke in outside designated areas.

Abrams plans to propose that all district-owned properties and all district activities become tobacco-free for both students and adults, including district employees. It also will offer a smoking cessation program to employees interested in quitting, Blankenship reports.

“I’ve talked with a lot of districts in the area who have done this, and when they implemented it, they had similar concerns,” Abrams said. “Our personnel don’t want to be the ‘tobacco police,’ and they wouldn’t be asked to. We would announce the policy and put up signs at ballgames and ask folks to respect that.”

“I think most folks are accustomed to that now as most public areas are smoke free. And for the most part, 95 percent of them do abide by it,” Abrams said.

Blankenship reports that some board members, “some of whom have been or are currently tobacco producers, were reluctant to impose such a policy given the county’s rich history with the crop.”

But tobacco farmer and board member Donnie Tipton said, “It’s just not setting a very good example when we’ve got employees and teachers smoking in front of the kids. I still raise tobacco. I know it’s very harmful to us, and I just hate to see kids smoking.”

Board member Harold Bratton told Abrams, “Well, if we don’t like it when you bring it to us, we don’t have to approve it. Go ahead and draft a policy. We may choose not to approve it, but I make a motion that we at least take a look at it.”

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