As we celebrate the Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful to live in one of the 37 of 132 school divisions in Virginia that has a 100 percent tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free policy.
Current Virginia law requires every school division to have a tobacco-free policy, but not every division has a policy to support a school environment that is 100 percent free from tobacco products — including electronic cigarettes — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In August of 2017, fellow Y Street student Hannah Dowd worked with the Rappahannock County School Board to strengthen our division’s policy. They made clearer rules stating that electronic smoking devices were included in our tobacco policy. It also added language that tobacco use is not allowed in our parking and sports areas. Our school is now stricter with our policies for tobacco usage and smoking because of this. In fact, Rappahannock County School Division’s policy officially meets the comprehensive policy standard by the 24/7 campaign, a program of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.
Schools are places where students learn inside and outside of the classroom and having a comprehensive tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free policy keeps all students safe and healthy. It also leads the community to live healthier lives. I think a 100 percent tobacco-free and e-cigarette free school environment is important because this is the world’s next generation and we need healthy bodies and minds to be the future of our economy.
This issue is important to me because I have seen family members die and go through the consequences of tobacco usage and I want our generation to be the ones who stop it. My peers and I are very thankful for our 100 percent tobacco-free and e-cigarette free school division and are hopeful that all students in Virginia will soon have this same protection.
The writer, a junior at Rappahannock County High School, is a member of the Y Street Leadership Team.