COLUMBUS – Since November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, some Ohio health-advocacy groups are hoping legislation to snuff out smoking at schools gains some new traction. All kindergarten-through-12th-grade school campuses, along with school-sponsored events, would become 100 percent smoke-free environments under House Bill 221.
Along with parents, said Bruce Barcelo, healthy-lifestyle supervisor for Dayton Montgomery County Health, teachers, administrators and all school personnel have a responsibility to protect students.
“It’s everyone taking ownership of the policy because it’s the healthy thing to do,” he said, “and it’s the right thing to do for the health of our community and health of our students.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger asthma attacks and increase wheezing and coughing in children.
Opponents of the legislation have said enforcing it could be difficult, and that more than two dozen Ohio school districts already are voluntarily 100 percent smoke-free.
Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio, said HB 221 would bring consistency across the board because not all smoke-free policies are the same.
“Some just apply to students, some have staff but not just visitors, or maybe it doesn’t apply when they are off campus, or it doesn’t apply to sporting events,” she said. “So, it’s kind of a little bit of a mishmash, all over the place.”
It’s important to reinforce the positive smoke-free messages students hear in the classroom, Kiser said, adding that kids watch adults closely and often copy their behavior.
“When they see their friend’s mom or friend’s dad out there that they really like, smoking, that’s just one of those things that encourages them to smoke,” she said, “and so we really need to take away those negative role models and only have positive role-modeling for the children.”
Kiser noted that making all schools smoke-free also prepares kids for the future since most workplaces and places of higher learning ban smoking and tobacco use.
The text of HB 221 is online at legislature.ohio.gov. Information on smoke-free schools is at healthy.ohio.gov.