Schools tighten tobacco policy

Published 9:14 pm Friday, March 11, 2016

A Lakeland High School student managed to convince the Suffolk School Board to change its tobacco-free policy because he spoke up.

Hunter Turley spoke at the December School Board meeting to urge the division to add restrictions to its policy. He’s a member of Y Street, a teen volunteer program that is part of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.

Following Hunter’s speech, the School Board took steps to adopt what the foundation views as a comprehensive policy. It approved the policy at its meeting this Thursday.


Email newsletter signup

“We were excited and pleased at how fast they took action after Hunter spoke to the board,” said Nicky Besser with Y Street. “We’re hoping other school divisions will see what they’ve done and take action sooner rather than later.”

Besser said Suffolk was the 21st division out of 125 or so in the state to adopt a comprehensive policy.

Before, the division’s policy restricted smoking, chewing or any other use of tobacco products by staff and students on school property. It prohibited students from possessing tobacco on school property, which includes school buses, or during school activities. Employees were prohibited from using tobacco while in the presence of students on school property or while participating in a school sponsored activity.

However, Hunter urged the division to remove designated smoking areas, make clear that on- and off-site events are included, require consequences for visitors who violate the policy and treat electronic cigarettes the same as regular cigarettes.

Hunter also requested announcements at sporting events, asking everyone present to refrain from using tobacco.

Besser told the School Board on Thursday that free signage is available from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to help drive home the message.