Fewer than 1/3 of Ky. schools have comprehensive tobacco-free policies, covering fewer than 1/2 of students; 85% of adults favor

Though an overwhelming majority of Kentucky adults say they want schools to be tobacco-free, fewer than half of the state’s students and less than one-third of its school districts are covered by such local policies.

Among Kentucky’s 173 school districts, 55, or 32 percent, have 100 percent tobacco-free school policies, protecting 47 percent of the state’s children.

This map has been updated to reflect Clinton and Menifee counties

The latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky last year found that 85 percent of Kentucky adults want schools to be tobacco-free, with large majority support from smokers, former smokers, non-smokers and across party lines. At the same time, 26.5 percent of Kentuckians smoke, second only to West Virginia.

Campbellsville Independent Schools became the latest district to go tobacco-free, after a push from students.

Campbellsville’s policy went into effect at the beginning of this school year and prohibits students, staff and visitors from using any tobacco products or electronic cigarette products on school property, including school-owned vehicles, school-sponsored trips and activities, and sporting events.

The policy was encouraged by several middle-school students who presented information in May about the school district becoming tobacco-free, the Central Kentucky News-Journal reports.

The national 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 17 percent of Kentucky’s high-school students smoked at least one cigarette during the 30 days before the survey and 24 percent of them use electronic cigarettes during that same time frame.

“Strictly enforced tobacco-free school policies can reduce youth smoking by 30 percent,” says a presentation on the “100% Tobacco Free Schools” website.

The Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, which works closely with the Department for Public Health and the Department of Education, is a resource for Kentucky schools that are considering becoming 100 percent tobacco-free. Click here for more information.

“Local health departments and other community partners can apply for grant funding to educate the community on the benefits of 100 percent tobacco free school policies, as well as funding for implementation and signage when policies go into effect,” Elizabeth Anderson-Hoagland, the youth policy analyst with the Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, said in an e-mail.

The Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program will also be releasing two promotional videos, with the assistance of the Warren County and Russell County school districts, to help communicate about the successful 100 percent tobacco free school policies in the state and about the process of passing such policies, Anderson-Hoagland said.

Ellen Hahn, director of the Bridging Research Efforts and Advocacy Toward Healthy Environments (BREATHE) initiative at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, said in an interview that policy change is a more effective way to teach our children about the harms of tobacco than teaching about it in the classroom.

“We are in a hotbed of tobacco use and so it is really a great opportunity for schools to change the generations of tobacco users in our state and policy can do that,” Hahn said. “I would highly and strongly encourage schools and parents and decision makers at the school level to take this step because it makes a huge difference.”

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