Just over half of Ky. students are in schools with 100% tobacco-free policies; Warren, Russell county districts share successes

The state Department of Public Health has created videos to showcase the success of two Kentucky school districts in becoming 100 percent tobacco-free schools in hopes of encouraging other school districts to do the same. So far, 35 percent of Kentucky’s school districts and 51 percent of the state’s students are covered by such policies.

“School districts want to hear from their peers and hear from colleagues who have gone through the process already,” Elizabeth Anderson-Hoagland, youth policy analyst with the Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, said in a news release. “By demonstrating that others have successfully adopted the policy and experienced positive results, we are able to encourage more school administrators to consider going tobacco free.”

The videos are of Russell County Public Schools, which approved its tobacco-free policy in July 2014 and Warren County Public Schools, which passed its policy in April 2015.

Warren County  Supt. Rob Clayton said in the release that a tobacco-free policy “fit perfectly into our core values, one of those being to ensure student and staff safety.” Russell County Supt. Michael Ford said the decision to become tobacco-free was part of a “conscientious stance which favors better health for our youth and, I believe, readies them for the modern day workforce.”

Kentucky has room for celebration and for concern when it comes to its teen smoking rates.

According to the 2015 Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Kentucky’s teen cigarette smoking rate is at a historic low, dropping nearly 10 percentage points over the past decade to 16.9 percent from 26.2 percent. However, this is still the third-highest teen-smoking rate in the nation, following West Virginia at 18.8 percent and Iowa at 18.1 percent  The national rate is 10.8 percent.

The survey also found that 23.4 percent of Kentucky’s teens use electronic vapor products, near the national average of 24.1 percent.

State health officials attribute the 10-year decrease, in part, to tobacco-free school policies, which encourage districts to create campus environments where tobacco and alternative nicotine products are strictly prohibited on all school property and during school-related trips 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sixty Kentucky school districts, 646 schools and a little over half (51 percent) of the state’s students are protected by comprehensive tobacco free policies.

Most Kentucky adults (85 percent) support 100 percent tobacco-free schools, including 89 percent of adults who have never smoked, 84 percent of former smokers and 80 percent of current smokers, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll. 

Strongly enforced 100 percent tobacco free school policies can reduce youth smoking by up to 30 percent, says the release.

“We strongly encourage every school district to adopt 100 percent tobacco-free school policies,” Senior Deputy Health Commissioner Connie White said in the release. “Smoking, which is the leading cause of lung cancer, heart disease and a host of other chronic diseases, is one of the biggest public health challenges facing our state. We owe it to our young people to create healthy environments where they won’t be exposed to tobacco and its detrimental health effects. Not only will it create a healthier, safer learning environment, it will further decrease the chances of them becoming smokers.”

For more information call (502) 564-9358.

The Russell County School District video can be found here: https://youtu.be/imkcxDXiugI

The Warren County School District video can be found here: https://youtu.be/xQ6-kucZUVs.

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