OTSEGO COUNTY – The Vanderbilt Public Schools are the first in Otsego County to adopt 24/7 Tobacco-Free School policies, according to Susan Pulaski, Community Health Coordinator for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.
Pulaski, who coordinates the Tobacco Reduction Coalition of Antrim, Charlevoix, Otsego and Emmet Counties, said Vanderbilt Public Schools' newly-instituted policies prohibit the use of tobacco products within any building, within any vehicle or on any property that is owned, leased, or operated by the school district. They apply to all employees, students, contractors and visitors on the premises of the school district, and are in effect at all times.
“Policies that guarantee a healthy, tobacco-free environment demonstrate that being tobacco-free is a community norm,” Pulaski said. “This reinforces what students are already learning in school about tobacco use, and it supports the students' decision to avoid tobacco.”
More than 600,000 U.S. middle school students, and more than three million high school students, smoke cigarettes, though the U.S. Surgeon General's office reports that progress is being made toward preventing tobacco use among youth. Tobacco use is believed to be responsible for more than 1,200 deaths nationwide each day. For every death that occurs, at least two school-age youth are taking up smoking, and nearly 90 percent of “new” smokers begin smoking before age 18.
“We applaud the Vanderbilt Schools for recognizing the importance of instituting 24/7 tobacco-free policies,” Pulaski added. “They've demonstrated their commitment to building healthier communities by putting students' health first. We're hopeful others in the county will follow suit.” Anyone interested in being a part of the four-county Tobacco Reduction Coalition is invited to attend its next meeting on Thursday, December 6 at 1pm at the Health Department office, 3434 M-119 in Harbor Springs.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For more information about the Tobacco Reduction Coalition and 24/7 Tobacco-Free School policies, contact Pulaski at (231) 347-5813. For free help in quitting tobacco contact the Michigan Tobacco Quitline at (800) 784-8669 or (800) QUIT-NOW.