HAZARD— This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s first warning on the health hazards of smoking. Since that time, Kentucky has made great strides in the restriction of tobacco sales, advertisement, and tobacco use; however, according to the 2014 report on the State of Tobacco Control from the American Lung Association, released last month, the state had failing scores across the board.
The report graded every state in four categories, tobacco prevention, smoke-free air, cigarette tax, and cessation coverage. According to the report, the adult smoking rate in Kentucky is 28.3 percent and the smoking rate among high school students is 24.1 percent. The report also stated that trends in tobacco use indicated more people used multiple tobacco products, particularly youth and young adults.
Neal Feltner, principal of Perry County Central High School, said he and his staff have worked hard since he took his position last year to keep the school tobacco free.
“It’s a smoke free building,” Feltner said. “Students are doing a great job of adhering to that, it’s not an issue … not many cigarettes and stuff in this building this year or last year.”
Feltner went on to state that the use of smokeless tobacco products was more of a struggle.
“Now tobacco use, tobacco, snuff, and so forth, we still are fighting that, but it’s nothing, nowhere what it used to be,” he said.
The key to the school’s smoke free success, Feltner explained, lies in two parts; no students are allowed outside the classroom when classes are in session, and between classes there are teachers inside every bathroom in the building. If a student must leave the classroom during class time, the teacher will call down to the office and a staff member will come to escort the student.
Feltner said the school’s family resource center offered both smoking and tobacco cessation classes for students who wanted help quitting.
Feltner did not say whether or not those resources are extended to teachers and staff in the building, though they may not need it.
“To my knowledge, not one of my certified teachers in this building smokes,” Feltner said, adding that only a handful of staff members out of the 120 working at the school are smokers.
At Hazard High School, a no smoking policy also exists for all school grounds, though Superintendent Sandy Johnson said students do not always abide by it.
“Sometimes, they will sneak in the restroom and smoke. We try to monitor it and so forth, but we don’t have the staff to leave someone in there at all times,” she said.
When asked about smoking among staff and faculty, Johnson said it was not an issue. She stated the no smoking policy extended to all school events, but she would not “police an adult smoking.”
“I’m not going to I’m sorry,” she said.
Johnson said Helen Williams, with Hazard High School, has worked with agencies in the community to do smoking cessation classes with students and staff members.
Williams also said she takes students to the HOT conference every fall, where the smoking and tobacco usage issues are focused on.
“I have done smoking cessation with both students and staff through Little flower Clinic, and that is where I refer current students and staff to, as well as to the Hazard Clinic,” Williams said.
Gwendolyn Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.