LOUISVILLE, Ky., October 26, 2020 - Schools in 101 districts and 51 state operated technology centers across Kentucky are displaying a total of nearly 12,000 metal signs and window or door stickers announcing that their campuses are tobacco-free, thanks to a partnership among the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky (FHKy), the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care. The Tobacco-Free for Students partnership provided the free signs, as well as more than 20,000 policy change announcement cards, as an incentive for districts to adopt tobacco-free policies, which are shown to reduce youth tobacco use.
"Our goals was not only to encourage more school districts to adopt tobacco-free campus policies, but to help change the culture of Kentucky's school environment to a place where tobacco use is simply not the norm, no matter what time, what day of the week, or what event is happening on campus," said Ben Chandler, FHKy president and CEO. "These signs are a reminder that we care about our kids' health so tobacco use has no place in Kentucky schools."
"We know that tobacco-free laws work by reducing not only the number of users, but by reducing the effects of secondhand smoke as well. These new signs will help improve compliance with the new policy and prevent thousands of Kentucky youth from becoming addicted to tobacco products. We’re excited that our communities will become healthier as a result of this initiative,” said KMA President Dale Toney, M.D.
“National smoking rates have declined in recent years. But we’ve seen a sharp uptick in new users of e-cigarettes, which pack many of the same deadly chemicals and harmful ingredients as cigarettes. The growing number of teen users is particularly alarming, and we’re hopeful the signage provided by the Tobacco-Free for Students program will help curb this epidemic,” said KFMC President Shawn Jones, M.D.
The Kentucky General Assembly passed a tobacco-free schools bill introduced by Rep. Kim Moser in 2019. Her bill was supported by the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, of which all three signage partners are members. The Coalition, comprising more than 220 organizations across the Commonwealth, supports policies proven to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosol.
Before the new law went into effect on July 1, 2019, 42 percent of Kentucky's 172 school districts had voluntarily adopted tobacco-free campus policies. The new law included an opt-out provision, but even so, 167 districts - 97 percent - of Kentucky school districts are now tobacco-free. That means an additional 95 school districts have adopted tobacco-free campus policies in the last year or so. The partnership initially offered the free signage on a first-come, first-served basis to the newly tobacco-free districts, and then gave the remaining signage it had purchased to formerly tobacco-free districts that needed replacement signage.
Overall, the partnership gave Kentucky school districts 1,540 metal property entrance signs, 1,693 metal signs for outdoor facility fences, 3,674 window stickers for school building doors, and 4,887 bus window stickers. In addition, they gave school districts 20,223 small cards with a reminder of the new tobacco-free campus policy that districts could hand out in car pool lines and at school events.
A map of school districts that have adopted tobacco-free policies is available here.
About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $29 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Learn more at www.healthy-ky.org.
Bonnie J. Hackbarth