Bridgman says work to see schools go ‘Tobacco Free’ was a year-long effort

Posted July 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm


Last week the Clinton County School Board approved a plan that has been more than a year in the making.

During last Monday’s regular meeting, the board approved the school district to move to a 100 percent tobacco free campus starting during the 2016-2017 school year.

During the meeting, the decision was made by a unanimous vote and will take effect July 1, 2016.

One reason for not enacting the policy for this school year was to give the public more time to become aware of the new rule and get adjusted to it.

With the policy not taking effect until next year, Ashley Bridgman, Health Educator of Wayne, Clinton and Cumberland County Health Departments, has a plan to inform the citizens of Clinton County during the next year by posting ads in media, including newspaper and radio, billboards and signs all over the school grounds.

The money used will come from a grant Bridgman wrote that secured $14,561 to be given to the county for promotion for the 100 percent tobacco free campus policy.

The grant will assist in implementing 100 percent tobacco free schools in Clinton County and will also help enforce a 100 percent tobacco free school policy. This will help reduce the high rates of youth tobacco rates and will also help reduce smoking rates in adults.

“We are going to have ads in the newspaper and radio, I’m going to have signs made and put on school grounds and every school will have a big sign notifying people of the policy,” Bridgman said. “I’ve been working on this for about a year now.”

Bridgman said she started the project by doing a lot of research on the topic and she has looked at other districts as a model for Clinton County’s schools.

“I then went to the school board and presented them with the research and told why it is important and who else has approved the tobacco free policies in the schools,” Bridgman said.

A year ago, the board told Bridgman they needed education on the subject.

Bridgman said she has spent the past year handing out surveys and getting public opinion.

Nearly 77 percent of teachers in the school district said they would support a tobacco free environment and nearly 84 percent of the people surveyed in the county said they would support the policy.

Going tobacco free is something that is becoming a popular theme in Kentucky with, according to Bridgman, 43 schools districts in the state have already approved and taken the policy into effect.

“All of the other districts that have gone tobacco free have not had any issues,” Bridgman said. “Most schools do see an improvement on the cleanliness of their facilities.”

Bridgman also said people in other districts have been very respectful of the policy.

“When you post the policy outside the schools, most people will follow it, so there hasn’t been any problems with the policy taking effect in other districts,” Bridgman said.

As far as when the policy takes effect, Bridgman couldn’t comment on any repercussions if the policy is broken.

“That’s something I’m sure the school board will have to discuss,” Bridgman said.

Now that the policy has been approved, Bridgman said it’s been a long road, but she is glad the policy will take effect next year.

“There has been a lot of tears, but I’m very excited,” Bridgman said. “It’s for the community, it’s for the kids, and it’s for the health and that’s very important. They do better in school and in college, and when they get into the workforce they will do better in that.”

Bridgman said she is thankful for the community members and the school board for supporting the policy.

“One way to spread awareness is to add signs to the school grounds. Bridgman said she is going to put signs on every outdoor sporting field and each school will get a large six-foot by three-foot sign to go at the entrance of each facility.

Part of the grant stated there are more than 20 vendors in Clinton County that sells tobacco and Clinton County has a smoking rate of 21 percent. In 2012, the Kentucky incentives for Prevention Survey revealed 30 day smokeless tobacco use increased between eighth grade and twelfth grade and cigarette usage was reported to triple on students during those years.

In order to get information for the board of education, KY-ASAP put together was a 100 percent Tobacco Free School Basketball night. KY-ASAP provided free popcorn and school cups and four $25 gas cards were given away for those who completed a survey.

“A lot of community members want this change in our schools,” Bridgman said.

According to the grant, this work plan hopes to accomplish more education and knowledge about tobacco and secondhand smoke dispersed through the county, and see a decrease in youth and adult usage of tobacco, making Clinton County a healthier place to live.