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Wednesday, 01 March 2006 00:00

Banning tobacco in schools shouldn’t be so difficult

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There’s really not much to say except this: why has it taken so long?

The Haywood County School Board apparently is going to pass a ban on tobacco products at schools and all school-related events, including football games, graduation ceremonies, and weekend events held at the schools that technically are not school functions.

It’s taken a while to get to this point. Perhaps the new attitude has something to do with repeated appeals from students to enact a ban. It was kind of a role reversal a couple of weeks ago at a school board meeting when teen-agers were left to appeal to the leaders they are expected to look up to — the elected school board members — to enact the ban.

“We aren’t asking adults to stop using. We are just asking them to stop using at school. We are just trying to make our school a healthier environment for everybody,” said Paige Jones, a Tuscola High School freshman.

Therein lies the kicker. No one is asking teachers, school staff and those who visit schools to kick the habit. They are adults, and smoking is a legal habit for adults, as it should be. But workplaces everywhere are requiring workers to move farther and farther away from public entrances before lighting up, using whatever means possible to discourage a habit that remains one of this country’s major health risks. In reality, the school board would be doing its staff a favor by banning tobacco use on school premises.

One of the issues holding up passage, of course, had to do with money. Those Friday night football games are more than just fun. Ticket sales from those games also produce big bucks that help pay for the others athletic endeavors — track, swimming, volleyball, etc. — that aren’t revenue producers. Some school officials worried that banning tobacco use at all events could disrupt this revenue flow.

And it just might. In this case, as in almost every instance, some things remain more important than the money. Let those who won’t set an example for teen-agers just stay home. They have a choice, and in this case if a craving for a cigarette or a chew keeps them at home or elsewhere, then so be it.

Others argue that banning an adult activity that is legal is just wrong. Well, it’s also legal for adults to drink alcohol and carry firearms, but these are heavily regulated and not allowed in public schools. That argument doesn’t have any legs.

Want a good reason to ban tobacco use? Here are a few sentences from the Web site of the National Cancer Institute: “Cigarette smoking, the most common form of tobacco use, causes the majority of preventable death and disease in the United States each year. About 46 million people in the U.S. — or 23 percent of the population — currently smoke. The rates are slightly higher for men than women and for high schools students than other age groups. Smoking accounts for nearly one-third of all cancer deaths in the U.S. each year, including 87 percent of lung cancer deaths — the most common cause of cancer death. In addition, smoking is responsible for most cancers of the larynx, oral cavity, esophagus, and bladder. Cigarette smoking also causes heart disease and stroke.”

So let’s hope this ban does indeed pass and just be thankful students won’t have to be exposed to one of the most dangerous addictions there is. This is simple, and we can only hope every school system in our region follows suit.

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