A consultant who is helping the Polk County School Board update its policy manual told the board that she plans to recommend a ban on use of all tobacco products on school campuses.
She asked the board for reaction to the proposal.
“What’s not to support about this?” School Superintendent John Stewart replied. He is not a man to mince words, and he is 100 percent correct.
Tobacco industry zealots, who for years maintained that the apparent link between tobacco and cancer might be just a coincidence, can be expected to support use of their products as a freedom-of-choice issue.
And it is.
Exposure of others — particularly students, who have no option not to attend school — is another issue.
Skydivers, tight rope walkers, lion tamers, and others in dangerous occupations are free to engage in their high risk behavior, and will attract audiences to watch their activities in awe.
But if things go awry, the daredevils involve only themselves in the consequences.
(We are reminded of a friend whose business card carried this advice: If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.) Smoking is not evil; smokers are not evil. This is not a war on smokers.
Cigarette smoke causes cancer, not only in smokers but in those who are exposed to their secondhand smoke.
There was a time when gracious hosts were expected to provide ashtrays in their homes for visitors, even if they themselves did not smoke. It was a courtesy owed by non-smokers to those who puffed.
That is no longer the case. The dangers of secondhand smoke are well established.
The proposed school board policy would apply everywhere on campus, not just indoors. That is a growing trend in the country, with hospitals taking the lead in banning smoking everywhere on their premises, even in their parking lots.
Since people arriving and departing from a school, hospital, or place of business must walk across a parking lot or other outdoor space, it is only reasonable to protect them from exposure to secondhand smoke from the moment they arrive, not just after they make it through the door.
Extending the ban to “smokeless” tobacco products, especially on school campuses, is a logical part of the policy. Teachers, whether they choose to be or not, are role models for their students.
The aforesaid tobacco industry zealots once represented snuff and chewing tobacco as “safe alternatives” to smoking. That notion also has been disproven.
The school board already offers smoking cessation initiatives as part of its wellness program, and that is an excellent investment in the health of its workforce.
We know of one company that reimburses employees for half of the cost of enrolling in expensive smoking cessation programs, and reimburses the other half if the employee successfully completes the program and gives up smoking.
A complete ban on use of tobacco products on school campuses is not only appropriate, but overdue. It deserves prompt and unanimous support by the school board.
In Stewart’s words, “What’s not to support?”