October 4, 2007

State Education Leaders Call for Tobacco Ban in All Schools

Tobacco should be prohibited in all schools in order to protect the health of students and faculty and to help improve student achievement says the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) in a new set of school health policy recommendations being issued to state and local educational leaders.


State boards of education are being urged to make schools “tobacco-free environments” by strictly prohibiting the use of tobacco by anyone—students, staff, and visitors—in school, on school grounds, and at all school-related activities, according to NASBE’s recommendations in a new school health policy guide, Policies to Prevent Tobacco Use. In addition, schools are being urged to ban all tobacco-related promotions and institute educational prevention programs.


“Tobacco is a killer. Tobacco use among schoolchildren is especially evil because of their greater susceptibility to addiction and of the proven detrimental effects tobacco has on a student’s academic performance,” said Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director.


“Educational leaders at every level have a moral obligation and an educational imperative to eliminate every student’s exposure to tobacco in the school setting. Schools must be proactive in discouraging students from first using tobacco and offering assistance to students already using to wean themselves from its grip. The stakes are too high, the risks to our children’s health too great to do anything less,” declared Welburn.


Tobacco use is the single most avoidable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 28% of high school seniors and 12% of middle school students are current smokers. One-third of all smokers have their first cigarette by age 14. In addition to the well-known health consequences, tobacco can affect students’ attendance and academic performance in school. A student’s use of tobacco is also considered a red flag of potentially other problems that could seriously affect school performance or their well-being


Welburn noted that “national concern over youth tobacco use has waned in recent years. Unfortunately, tobacco thrives as a lurking menace preying on children with such inattention. We must make tobacco prevention a priority once again precisely because of the life and death consequences and because it is so preventable with education and vigilance.”


Because it is easier to prevent a person from ever using tobacco than to try to get them to quit once they have begun, there are other strategies policymakers can pursue to discourage tobacco use beside a tobacco ban. Key policies in the guide include: prevention education programs, tobacco-use cessation and support programs, and links to community campaigns. Indeed, research has shown the most effective school anti-tobacco policies take a comprehensive approach in order to ensure that students receive consistent anti-tobacco-use messages from every direction.


Only five states—Arkansas, Delaware, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Oregon—currently have a comprehensive tobacco-free schools policy. The recommendations include model tobacco-use prevention policies which are available at www.nasbe.org/HealthySchools/States/State_Policy.asp.


The report, Policies to Prevent Tobacco Use, is the latest installment of NASBE’s comprehensive and nationally-acclaimed Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn: A School Health Policy Guide. The full guide or just the tobacco chapter can be purchased by calling (800) 220-5183 or via the Internet at www.nasbe.org