UNC study reveals few problems banning smoking at NC schools

CHAPEL HILL -- Encouraging North Carolina students and adults to work toward adoption of a 100 percent Tobacco-Free School (TFS) policy in their school districts could pay solid dividends -- better health for children, teachers and other school personnel.

That's one conclusion of a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study aimed at gauging how such efforts have fared statewide.

The study, conducted by Dr. Adam O. Goldstein, associate professor of family medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, and colleagues, covered through 2001, when 14 of the state's 117 school districts had adopted the policy. Since then, 11 more systems have implemented the policy, which prohibits smoking and other tobacco use on school grounds.

Researchers conducted detailed interviews with 40 key people in each of those first 14 districts, such as school board members, superintendents, principals, health coordinators and students, to learn what their experiences were.

Few of the potential problems expected before passage of the policy actually arose in any county, Goldstein said.

"A commonly cited barrier preventing passage of 100 percent Tobacco-Free School policies involves fear over loss of teachers or inability to enforce the policy," he wrote. "This research showed that despite the fear, enforcement problems were more manageable than anticipated, a finding demonstrated in other states."

No substantial loss of teachers occurred, and almost all short-term outcomes were more positive than expected, the physician said. Long-term outcomes, such as a lower likelihood of adolescents starting or continuing to smoke and probably less smoking-related illness, can only be positive.

"Comprehensive tobacco-free school policies constitute an important component of state tobacco control and public health efforts, but little research has been done about the adoption process," Goldstein said. "This work and these findings a

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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