By Becky Taylor
STILLWATER, Okla. —
One of the favorite parts of my job is the work I get to do with schools in Payne County. I help create and sustain Students Working Against Tobacco teams in middle schools, junior highs and high schools.
Payne County has seven SWAT teams: three teams in Stillwater, two teams in Perkins and one team in Glencoe and Ripley. SWAT exists to empower and unite youth to resist and expose big tobacco’s lies while changing attitudes about tobacco. Almost 90 percent of smokers started before the age of 18, making early prevention vital to the health and wellness of our young people.
The SWAT teams meet at least monthly to work on initiatives that will make their school environment and community healthy places for them to learn, grow and play.
This past Monday, three Glencoe students along with an amazing teacher made a presentation to their school board urging them to adopt a 24/7 tobacco-free policy.
Adopting a tobacco-free policy broadcasts a clear message to students, staff, parents and the community that school leaders consider this an important issue. Schools create powerful environments for promoting nonsmoking norms and therefore should be the forerunners for preventing students from using tobacco at an early age.
A 24/7 tobacco-free school policy states that tobacco in any form will not be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime on school campus — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It covers all school events, including outdoor events. The policy is not about whether adults use tobacco but where they use tobacco. It is about protecting students from addiction, health problems and supporting a safe school climate for all students, staff and visitors.
The Glencoe SWAT team worked diligently preparing for the presentation and the school board voted unanimously to adopt the policy!
It is a wonderful thing for adults to advocate for the health of their children, but it is staggering and altogether remarkable to see young people take leadership in making health a priority for themselves and their peers.
Glencoe is the fifth school district in our county to become a 24/7 tobacco-free school — all we need is for Yale school district to adopt the policy and our county’s schools will be 100 percent tobacco-free! Health is not just a decision we make for ourselves. It is a decision that all levels of our community can make in order to create an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice. With the adoption of a 24/7 tobacco-free policy and the leadership of the Glencoe SWAT team, Glencoe school district is actively choosing to make health a priority for its students.
Choose today to live a full, healthy life. Choose to live well.
Becky Taylor is a prevention specialist with Oklahoma State University Prevention Programs.