The Hopkins County school board is considering a proposal to ban all forms of tobacco from school property and vehicles for students, faculty, and visitors, during all school functions every day of the week.
According to Kentucky’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program only 34 of Kentucky’s 173 school districts are tobacco free. Graves County School System is in the majority. Spokesperson Paul Schaumburg doesn't consider it a major issue for school districts in Kentucky.
“I’ve not even heard this is an issue in our conferences we got to and so on,” Schaumburg said. “I’m not saying they’re wrong to do that by any means, but we’re talking about things like trying to avoid school violence, obviously testing—all these kinds of things.”
Schaumburg and Graves County Superintendent Kim Harrison said they’ve had no issues with faculty who smoke and couldn’t recall seeing anyone smoking at schools in their district.
“They don’t do it in the presence of others, and I think it’s out of respect,” Harrison said. “What we have is working.”
But while most Kentucky school districts are satisfied to trust faculty discretion, Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Coordinator Elizabeth Anderson Hoagland says smoke free campuses affect cultural views which significantly impact smoking statistics.
“I think it’s really important if you have both the cultural change and the rule change,” Anderson-Hoagland said. “If youth don’t see adults in their life using tobacco then it does not become normal for them, and they’re less likely to use tobacco themselves.”
According to Anderson-Hoagland studies have found up to a 30% reduction in student smoking in schools with 100% tobacco free policies. She says tobacco free policies are gaining ground across the state.
“We’re seeing about 4 to 5 school districts for year changing their policy, and we are seeing a pick-up in momentum,” Anderson-Hoagland said. “I do think at some point it’s going to become normal and expected rather than something that only some counties do.”
Hopkins County will decide on their smoke free policy in a future board meeting.