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Henrico school board ponders tobacco ban proposal

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – Dozens of other school districts across the Commonwealth have gone tobacco-free for both students and faculty. 

Now some parents and health advocates in Henrico County think it is time to extinguish smoking areas and institute a similar ban at the county’s schools.

As a result, the Henrico County School Board is considering banning all tobacco products on campus from elementary to high schools.

The county already bans students from smoking, but allow schools to designate smoking areas for teachers. That is a practice some see as sending a mixed message.

“For us to be talking to students about healthy lifestyles and then observing adults smoking is talking out of both sides of your mouth so to speak,” said Henrico Schools Deputy Superintendant Dr. Patrick Kinlaw. “We think it is important to teach students good health habits.”

Travis Miles, a 2012 Highland Springs graduate, says what is good for the student body should be good for faculty, too.

“That is an outstanding idea,” said Miles. “If the students who are 18 can’t smoke on campus, why should the teachers?”

This smoke-free idea is gaining traction across Virginia. In fact, 32 other school divisions in the state currently do not allow tobacco their campuses.

“It is the teachers obligation to teach and they should also teach the children not to smoke,” said Brian Oltarzewski, a Henrico resident.

According to Kinlaw, 70 percent of people surveyed approve of a total ban on campus.

Julian Rivas whose son Christian will be attending Highland Springs High school as a freshman this fall applauds the boards idea, even though he smokes.

“That is good that they’re doing that,” said Rivas. “You’re there to learn you’re there to teach not to smoke.”

However, the school board decided Thursday not to vote on the ban. Members said the district is just in preliminary talks to go tobacco-free.

Officials said if the board votes in favor of going tobacco-free, the ban would be introduced over several months to prepare faculty for the change. The county would also offer classes for employees to help them quit smoking.