Congratulations to the Hancock County Board of Education!
ATLANTA (GA) – Public health officials report that 90 percent of current adult smokers started before the age of 21 and approximately 4,000 young persons begin smoking each day. In Georgia, nine percent of middle school students and 19 percent of high school students smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use statistics for Georgia’s youth reflect a national trend of rising rates that have health experts taking action to help decrease the numbers.
The Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health believes the greatest opportunity they have to reduce teen tobacco use in Georgia is by collaborating with school systems to adopt the 100% Tobacco Free School Policy.
“We believe that tobacco use prevention education has a place among other subjects taught in a school environment,” said Dr. Stuart Brown, Director of the Division of Public Health. “The 100% Tobacco Free School Policy allows us to effectively reach this targeted population and hopefully, lower the number of teens who use tobacco based products.”
The 100% Tobacco Free School Policy prohibits tobacco use in school buildings, on school grounds, in school buses or other vehicles used to transport students. Smoking is also prohibited at off-campus school-sponsored events. The policy utilizes components such as youth groups, surveys, signage and media campaigns to educate students about the health risks associated with cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The development of a cessation plan for students and staff is also a critical component of the 100% Tobacco Free Schools Policy program.
To date, six county school districts have implemented the 100% Tobacco Free School Policy with others to soon follow suit. The school districts include: Muscogee, Douglas, Charlton, Hancock and Liberty counties as well as the city of Marietta.
“We are so pleased to be partnering with these school districts to educate and inform middle and high school students about the dangers of smoking and using tobacco products,” said Dr. Brown. “It is our hope that through our collaborations with the school systems and our many other strategies we can decrease the health and economical burden of smoking among teens in Georgia.”
Implementation of the 100% Tobacco Free School Policy is just one strategy of a comprehensive effort the Division of Public Health is using to reduce teen tobacco use. The Division is also funding youth trainings and signage for all school property. Training school officials for the American Lung Association’s Alternative to Suspension Program and the Not on Tobacco Youth Cessation Curriculum is also a part of the project. Other strategies include:
- Passing local ordinances in Georgia counties and cities
- Encouraging youth serving public places, such as bowling alleys, to adopt tobacco free policies
- Developing 50 Youth InCharge groups statewide to provide peer education activities in schools and local youth serving organizations.
For more information about the 100% Tobacco Free School Policy or tobacco use prevention, please visit online at http://health.state.ga.us/programs/tobacco/index.asp or call (404) 657-6611.