Students lead education on tobacco policy

Last spring, Taylor High School students successfully advocated for the Three Rivers School Board to make the district 100% tobacco-free. Now they are educating people about the new policy and teaching middle school students about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

The students are seniors in Nancy Flickinger’s Teaching Professions Academy (TPA). Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH) and PreventionFIRST! have been working with Nancy and her TPA students for the past few years as part of a tobacco prevention grant from the Ohio Department of Health. The class expanded its focus this year to include alcohol and other drugs after the district received a mini-grant from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department.

“Last year’s group did the tobacco policy and got it passed,” explained Dominique Walker, health educator with HCPH. “With this year’s group, we’ve been trying to get them to truly understand what the policy is and how they can convey that message. They are doing a good job of it.”

The students conducted research and decided to create a brochure about the new tobacco policy. They distributed it to parents at the homecoming football game. “We felt like education was going to be a big part of making people understand that we have this standard now,” Nancy said. “Because you know no matter how much you hang signs and all that kind of stuff, people don’t get it. This way, the message is getting out there that we’re a 100 percent tobacco-free campus.”

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Nancy Flickinger (left) and Dominique Walker (HCPH) with signage promoting Three Rivers Schools’ new 100% tobacco-free policy.

Nancy’s class also developed lesson plans to teach middle school students about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. They are in the process of leading three sessions about tobacco products and vaping for fifth- and sixth-graders, and three sessions on drugs and alcohol for seventh- and eighth-graders. The lessons culminate in a poster contest that is going on now.

Next, the TPA students will share what they’ve been doing with parents and the community through the district’s e-newsletter. After this, they will report back to the school board. “The students will let them know we are continuing on with this project that started last year, and that we’ve actually expanded it,” Nancy said. “We’re doing it because we have a commitment to the community.”

You can read more about the impact Taylor High School students have made when it comes to tobacco in their community here and here. Three Rivers is a WeTHRIVE!℠ school district.

Does your school have a 100% Tobacco-Free Policy?
All districts must comply with state law, which prohibits smoking inside school buildings and bans students from using or possessing tobacco products on school grounds and at school activities. But many school districts still allow smoking and other tobacco products on school property.

Three school districts in Hamilton county — Norwood, Three Rivers, and Winton Woods — have adopted more comprehensive tobacco policies. “As a public school system, it is a big part of our collective responsibility to set the best example we can for our young people and our community when it comes to health and wellness choices,” said Steve Denny, executive director of business affairs with Winton Woods City Schools, a WeTHRIVE! school district. “The 100% tobacco-free campus policy is a prime example of this and represents our commitment to providing the best environment and education for our students so they can achieve their full potential.”

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) measures school district tobacco policies using a 23-point assessment tool. “It scores the language of the policy based on what’s all included,” said Dominique Walker, health educator with HCPH. “For example, does it include electronic cigarettes and vaping? Is the policy in effect 24/7 or just during school hours? That pretty much matches the best practice of what’s out there right now in terms of the most comprehensive tobacco policies for schools.”

ODH reviews and scores tobacco policies for all districts in the state. To see your school’s score, find a list of schools with 100% tobacco-free policies, and download the Tobacco-Free School toolkit and model policy, click here.

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From left, Dominique Walker (HCPH), Steve Denny (Winton Woods), Corina Denny (Winton Woods), and Jessica Skelton (HCPH) with signage promoting Winton Woods City Schools’ new 100% tobacco-free policy.