ANTRIM COUNTY – This week's enactment of a 24/7 Tobacco-Free Comprehensive School Policy in the Bellaire Public Schools is a milestone for the four counties served by the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. It means every school in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego Counties has now adopted policies prohibiting 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.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Michigan, and each year it costs the state more than $3.4 billion – that's $3,400,000,000 – in health care costs, in addition to $3.9 billion in lost productivity. Susan Pulaski, Community Health Coordinator for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, says Michigan spends only a fraction of its tobacco tax revenue on tobacco prevention.
"Tobacco company advertising targets children and teenagers," Pulaski said. "Michigan receives $1.2 billion in tobacco tax revenue, yet only $1.2 million of that is spent on tobacco prevention measures that would reduce the staggering health care costs and save lives." She added that state leaders should make it a top priority to look at new ways to increase funding for the Michigan Tobacco Prevention Program, based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation that a minimum of $12 per person in Michigan should be spent on tobacco prevention.
Pulaski, who coordinates the newly-formed Tobacco Reduction Coalition of Antrim, Charlevoix, Otsego and Emmet Counties, has been working with Northwest Michigan school districts for months to help get the 24/7 Tobacco-Free policies enacted. The policies apply to all employees, students, contractors and visitors on the premises of the school district, and are in effect at all times, as well as at off-campus school events.
“Every school in our four-county Health District has now taken an enforceable, public stand against tobacco use," Pulaski said. "This is a major step in protecting community health for generations to come."
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. Visit the Health Department online at www.nwhealth.org. 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, call the Tobacco Quitline at (800) QUIT-NOW.