Florida School Districts Upgrade Tobacco-Free Policies

Florida is a preemptive state when it comes to tobacco laws and regulations.  In other words, “the state, not local governments, regulates smoking wherever it may occur.”  While school buildings were covered under the smoke-free law, and minors under 18 were not allowed to smoke on school grounds, the law as it was written meant smoking could still take place on school property.  In 2011 Gov. Rick Scott signed a law that amended that Florida Clean Indoor Act giving “school boards the authority to designate all district property as tobacco-free.”  While many districts made changes immediately, others are still working through the process to include the 12 tobacco-free policy components adopted by K-12 school district in their board policies.  It should be noted the latest map is from 2016.

As of 2016, 62 out of the 67 school districts in Florida had some or all of the tobacco-free components in place. And of those 62 districts, 56 included electronic cigarettes.  Although cigarette smoking rates of youth in Florida has gone down, use of electronic cigarettes or vaping devices has increased in Florida, as it has for teen users throughout the U.S.

One Florida district, Sarasota, just developed a new ban on smoking and implemented it this school year.  While smoking inside the school buildings has been banned for years, smoking outside was not due to language in the union contracts that stated the district had to designate smoking areas.  Students on SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) “told district officials they could smell when staff, including bus drivers, had smoked on breaks.” It not only “sent an unhealthy message to students,” it continued to normalize smoking for teens at a time when we know smoking is a danger to health.  About 800 “tobacco-free” signs are now part of Sarasota County School District.

The Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators has links in the course for participants to view their district policy.  However, according to the above information, not every Florida district has updated their tobacco-free policy to include electronic cigarettes.  While Florida teens are below the national average when it comes to smoking, we still have work to do to educate all Florida students about the dangers of nicotine addiction and the health problems due to tobacco use in all forms.

Every educator, administrator or school counselor who holds a Florida DOE certificate can take one of two tobacco prevention on-line courses (30- or 60-credits) at no cost to them or their district.  Participants are required to teach six (6) tobacco prevention lessons to their students at the end of the course in exchange for 30- or 60-credits to renew their certificate.  Information and registration for the course can be found at tobaccopreventiontraining.org

Click HERE for the news article.   Click the “12 Tobacco-free policy components” link above for more information on the components.


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