OTSEGO COUNTY – This week's decision by Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools to adopt 24/7 Tobacco-Free School policies is a “win” for Otsego County, according to Susan Pulaski, Community Health Coordinator for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. The district's decision, announced on Monday night, brings Otsego County's public schools to 100 percent participation in 24/7 tobacco-free programs.
Pulaski, who coordinates the newly-formed Tobacco Reduction Coalition of Antrim, Charlevoix, Otsego and Emmet Counties, said these 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.
“These policies make it clear that tobacco-free living is a community norm,” Pulaski said. “They reinforce what students are already learning in school about tobacco use, and support 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.
“Johannesburg-Lewiston now joins Gaylord and Vanderbilt Public Schools in recognizing the importance of instituting 24/7 tobacco-free policies throughout Otsego County,” Pulaski added. “They've affirmed their commitment to healthier communities and to the health of their own students.”
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.