The Rappahannock County School Board has voted to protect its 850-plus students from the harmful effects of tobacco by adopting a 100 percent comprehensive tobacco and e-cigarette-free policy on their campuses.
The new ban prohibits the possession of any tobacco product by minors, including electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, and also requires visitors to refrain from tobacco use. In addition, designated smoking areas have been removed from all school properties.
Hannah Dowd, a sophomore at Rappahannock County High School and a member of Y Street — Virginia’s largest youth-led movement promoting a healthy Virginia and a program of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth — initiated the policy revision in May.
The new policy not only prohibits any tobacco use by students, staff, or visitors on all school property, but all school-sponsored events, including those “off-site.”
In adopting the revised policy, Rappahannock County Schools become the 31st school division in Virginia recognized by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) as having a 100 percent comprehensive tobacco- and e-cigarette-free policy.
“I’m really proud to be working with both an amazing program and a terrific school to help improve the students’ life,” said Dowd. “It was an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to seeing the positive changes that this decision has created.”
In only a few short years, upwards of 20 percent of Virginia teenagers admit to using e-cigarettes, according to the VFHY and the Virginia Department of Health.
“I am delighted that the school board has adopted this policy,” said Shannon Grimsley, superintendent of Rappahannock Schools. “In order to protect our youth and inspire healthy role models — a major goal for this year — we must be proactive in how policy guides our expectations in Rappahannock.
“I am very proud of the work that Hannah Dowd has done with Y Street in enacting positive and real change within her school community. This is exactly the type of leadership we wish to cultivate among our youth.”
To help communicate Rappahannock County’s comprehensive policy to students, staff and visitors, the 24/7 campaign will provide all of the public schools in Rappahannock County with free signs displaying the new tobacco-free regulations and a comprehensive toolkit to support the division and its schools in implementing and enforcing the new policy.
VFHY was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999 and empowers Virginia’s youth to make healthy choices by promoting active, nutritious and tobacco-free living. Since the foundation began its work in 2001, high school smoking in Virginia has been cut by more than 60 percent and the number of middle school smokers has dropped by more than 75 percent.