RICHMOND, Va., March 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- A newly signed state law will make all Virginia schools 100% e-cigarette-free and tobacco-free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Youth advocates from Y Street, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth's teen volunteer initiative, successfully advocated for the Comprehensive Tobacco-Free Schools Law, which was supported by the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education. The law will require all Virginia school boards to implement "comprehensive" policies prohibiting the use and distribution of all tobacco and nicotine vapor products by students, staff, and visitors at all times on school property and at off-site school sponsored events.
Since 2014, Y Street youth from across the Commonwealth have partnered with 23 school divisions to help their boards adopt 100% comprehensive policies as part of the 24/7 campaign. Their efforts led to more than one-third of Virginia's K-12 student population being protected by such policies, and this new law extends that protection to all of Virginia's youth. Under the new law, school divisions will be required to identify disciplinary actions for staff, students, and visitors that fail to comply, as well as to offer referrals to resources to help individuals overcome tobacco addiction.
"As a student who already attends school in a comprehensive division, it means so much to me that the entire state is now become comprehensive, because I hope that all children across Virginia get to experience the same healthy academic environment that I am in every day," said Jessie Wang, a 10th grader and Y Street member at King George High School.
The new law helps schools address recent concerns over electronic cigarettes and vaping. From 2017 to 2018, vaping among teens in the U.S. spiked dramatically, with 3.6 million middle and high school students reporting that they currently use e-cigarettes. With the U.S. Surgeon General declaring e-cigarette use an epidemic, schools and school divisions have been clamoring for resources to protect their students. The new law ensures that all school division policies across Virginia cover current products on the market that may be attractive to youth, such as JUUL devices, as well as potential future products that have not yet hit the market.
To help with the implementation, communication and enforcement of the new policies, the 24/7 campaign will be offering free resources to school divisions across the state. They will provide free signs to help schools comply with the new law and communicate the 100% e-cigarette-free and tobacco-free policy. The campaign will also provide a comprehensive toolkit that contains sample parent letters, ways to respond to challenging questions and other important resources that aid in the implementation, communication and enforcement of the new policies.
About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY)
Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth empowers teens throughout Virginia to make healthy choices by promoting active, nutritious, tobacco-free living. Since VFHY began its work in 2001, high school smoking in Virginia has been cut by more than 60 percent and the number of middle school smokers has dropped by more than 75 percent. The Foundation directly reaches about 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, daycares, and other prevention programs across the state. VFHY's award-winning marketing campaigns deliver prevention messaging to more than 500,000 children annually.
About Y Street and the 24/7 Campaign
Started in 2004, Y Street is the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth's teen volunteer group for high school students. Y Street youth work on obesity and tobacco-use prevention to help create a healthier Virginia. Y Street members have been invited to testify before the FDA and have worked on public health issues with top government officials, including the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Virginia's Governor, and Virginia's Attorney General.
The 24/7 campaign is a Y Street initiative to help all schools in Virginia understand, adopt, implement, and enforce comprehensive e-cigarette-free and tobacco-free policies. For more information, visit http://www.247CampaignVA.com.
SOURCE Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth