Henry Co. school board votes 3-2 to ban tobacco; farmers split

Wikipedia map: Henry County

The use of tobacco is banned on school property in Henry County, following a 3-2 vote by the school board Dec. 21.

Some board members are or have been tobacco growers, including Tony Whaley, who voted no. “Having been a tobacco producer for a number of years, it tugs at you both ways,” he said. “You think about what it’s meant to this county, and I think about what it’s meant to me. I raised a crop all through college and it put me through college without having to get a student loan.”

“But what really caused concern for Whaley was the issue of enforcement, especially at outdoor events like baseball and football,” Melissa Blankenship reports for the Henry County Local. “Supt. Tim Abrams said enforcement would be ‘passive,’ through signage and announcements at events where tobacco use might be more prevalent. He does not foresee asking school personnel to act as the ‘tobacco police,’ which is why board Chairperson Miranda Clubb chose to vote against the measure as well.”

“I’m not condoning smoking at all. I just think our purpose is to educate children, not to tell their families when and where they can or cannot smoke,” Clubb said. “I believe the current policy of not allowing smoking in buildings was enough.” Members Donnie Tipton, Harold Bratton and Danney Chisholm voted for the ban. Tipton is a tobacco farmer.

“The new policy prohibits all tobacco products, nicotine products and vapor products in any building and on any property owned and operated by the Henry County Board of Education and applies to indoor and outdoor facilities, inside board-owned vehicles, athletic fields and during school-sponsored trips and activities,” Blankenship reports. “The policy has always applied to students but will now also apply to all district employees, parents and any visitors to the district.”

Abrams estimated that about 20 of the district’s 300 employees are tobacco users. They will get an opportunity to participate in smoking-cessation classes.

He said having tobacco-free campuses sends a consistent message to students about tobacco use.

“I think everybody agrees we need to do everything we can to keep young people from picking up that terrible habit. I don’t think any parent wants their child to start smoking, and as a school we should do what we can to prevent it,” he said. “We teach our kids about the dangers of smoking in the classroom, now we can carry that message outside of the classroom, to all our buildings and all our events.”

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