Dade County Schools has become the 123rd school district in Georgia to adopt the 100% Tobacco-Free Schools (TFS) policy, which makes schools in all ten counties comprising the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Northwest Health District – Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk, and Walker – tobacco free.
“Tobacco-free schools save lives,” said Dr. Unini Odama, health director for the Georgia DPH Northwest Health District. “The Dade County Board of Education has demonstrated transformational leadership by eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke in schools and reducing youth tobacco use in Northwest Georgia.”
“Children spend almost a third of their waking time in school, so we are in a uniquely powerful position to play a major role in reducing the serious problem of smoking and other tobacco use by kids,” said Dade County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jan Harris. “Adopting the100% TFS policy in Dade County Schools will have an enormous impact on the current and future health and well-being of our students.”
The addition of Dade County Schools brings the total number of Georgia youth who are encouraged not to use tobacco products and protected from the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke to 1,476,044 (including both charter schools and public-school districts). Under the 100% Tobacco-Free School policy, no student, staff member, or school visitor is permitted to use any tobacco product or e-cigarette at any time on school property.
“Almost 13% of Georgia high school students smoke – higher than the national rate of about 8% - and 8.6% use e-cigarettes,” Dr. Odama said. “Ninety percent of Georgia’s smokers started using tobacco before the age of 18, and by eliminating tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, in schools, we can reduce the likelihood children in Georgia will start to use tobacco as well as protect children and adults from the effects of secondhand smoke.”
Tobacco use causes heart disease, cancer, diabetes and premature death. In a young person, smoking can damage the heart and lungs right away and in some cases, the damage never goes away. Studies show that eliminating tobacco smoke in an environment can reduce the incidence of heart attack related hospital admissions by between 10 and 40 percent.
Young people also are sensitive to nicotine. The younger they are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to develop addiction to nicotine, and over a lifetime they’ll become even more heavily addicted.
All Georgians, including students, 13 to 17 years old, can call the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP (7867) or 1-877-2NO-FUME (877-266-3863) and receive confidential counseling on how to quit smoking.
Visit the U.S. Surgeon General online for more information about the harmful effects of smoking and tobacco use in young people. To learn more about DPH’s efforts to help schools become tobacco-free, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/schools