Tobacco use at school events concerns some

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Despite widespread postings of signs prohibiting its use, spectators at area high school football games have been seen using tobacco in clear violation of the schools’ tobacco use policies.

Tobacco use at sporting events was among the topics of discussion at the Children’s Policy Council Coalition’s annual strategic meeting on how to reduce youth substance abuse.

Tobacco use – both cigarettes and in smokeless tobacco form – has been witnessed by multiple committee members and Star-News staff members at recent football games.

Two had seen cigarette smoking inside the stadium at three different high schools, while another reportedly witnessed those with “dip” or a tobacco chew inside their mouths, also while at the sporting events.

Tobacco use is prohibited on all school properties not only in Covington County, but also across the state and the nation. Each of the county’s three school systems has specific policies in place to deal with tobacco use on school grounds.

In Andalusia, the use of any tobacco product is strictly prohibited on all school system property and is prohibited at all school related activities and events, Superintendent Ted Watson said. The policy applies to all employees, students, salespeople and visitors.

There is a discipline scale for student violators; however, enforcing the school’s no-tobacco policy is one of the reasons city police officers attend games, Watson said.

Warnings are also posted on all doors, and violators will be asked to leave, he said.

“It’s easier to enforce the policy in an inside venue because the activity is smaller and the smoke obvious,” Watson said. “It’s difficult when have outdoor event, especially given the size of the stadium and the number of the people. We do have police there, and people know smoking is prohibited. There are signs everywhere, acting as reminders that (tobacco use) is not acceptable at any school activities.”

Watson said the same rule applies to the coaching staff.

“That policy applies to everyone,” he said.

The same is said for the Opp City School System, Superintendent Michael Smithart said.

“For us, it’s pretty simple,” Smithart said. “If we find someone in violation of our policy, typically, it’s a reminder first that using tobacco on school grounds is a violation of federal and state law. Typically, that resolves the situation. Most people are accommodating when reminded of it, but if it became problematic and the person didn’t adhere to the rule, we could have them removed.”

Smithart said he couldn’t remember that ever happening in Opp.

In the Covington County School System, which includes high schools in Straughn, Red Level, Florala and Pleasant Home, the no tobacco use policy applies to all employees, students, salespeople and visitors. The CCS also has a sliding punishment scale for students; however, it doesn’t discuss what happens if a visitor to the school grounds violates the policy.

Attempts to reach Superintendent Terry Holley for comment on how the system enforces the policy at sporting events were unsuccessful Tuesday.