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Ohio Board of Education wants school districts to go tobacco-free

Publication Date: 2012-09-09
  • Author:Ellen Kleinerman
  • Publication:The Cleveland Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- There's no smoking inside schools housing grades kindergarten through 12 because a 6-year-old Ohio law prohibits indoor smoking in all public buildings and places of employment.

But can parents waiting for children or employees on break smoke on the grounds or in their cars parked on school property?

It depends on the school district.

Linda Diamond, who is a member of the Tobacco-Free Delaware County Coalition, would like that answer to be a categorical, statewide "No," and she is taking steps to make that happen.

Members of the Delaware coalition were instrumental in persuading the Ohio Board of Education to adopt a proposal calling for all school property to be tobacco-free, which includes everything from smoking cigars and cigarettes to chewing tobacco. The policy covers grounds around buildings housing any grades as well as school board complexes.

"We worked to get all the school systems in Delaware County to go tobacco-free campuswide. Then we thought: 'Wouldn't it be nice for all schools in the state to have the same advantage?' " said Diamond, who also is development director of the Delaware General Health District.

The proposal was introduced to the state board in July 2010. A study committee was formed, and the model policy received unanimous approval a year later.

"It was impressive that Republicans and Democrats came together on this very important health issue," Diamond said. "But the state board cannot force individual districts to adopt this policy. Each school board has to take separate action."

Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio, said the issue is important because most adult smokers began lighting up as youths. Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the country, she said.

Diamond sees it as part of the education process. "If students don't see others -- including possible role models -- smoking or using tobacco in other ways, then they're less likely to take it up."

Boards can formulate punitive measures against employees and students who may violate a tobacco-free campus policy. But what about parents or visitors smoking under the stadiumbleachers or in their cars? The most district employees can do is ask visitors to stop or ask them to leave the campus.

Diamond said that the policy adopted by the state board calls for 100 percent tobacco-free campuses. That means no tobacco use of any kind in vehicles owned by the schools, on school grounds, parking lots, football stadiums or other athletic fields. Individuals also would not be allowed to smoke in private vehicles parked on school property...