Peñasco school district adopts strict tobacco policy | Education

The New Mexico Department of Health Nicotine Use Prevention and Control Program and the 24/7 campaign recognized Peñasco Independent School District’s school board for their vote this month to adopt a comprehensive, tobacco-free school policy.

The 24/7 anti-tobacco campaign is “fueled by students,” according to a press release from the program, which is funded by the state Department of Health.

“Our mission is to be an educational organization that demonstrates its commitment to students by cultivating a positive and engaging learning environment,” Superintendent Melissa Sandoval said in the release. “With the adoption of 24/7’s comprehensive policy, we can continue to encourage progress and empower our community to be free from tobacco and nicotine addiction.”

The move brings the rural district in line with more than a dozen other school districts in New Mexico that have adopted a universal anti-tobacco policy, including the Mora Independent School District, Pecos Independent School District, Española Public Schools and Los Alamos Public Schools.

The 24/7 campaign partners with school districts to help them update their tobacco policies to meet the Department of Health’s comprehensive standard, which is more stringent than existing state statute requires.

“Under the Department of Health standard, the definition of tobacco products must include e-cigarettes and nicotine liquid containers, and the policy must apply to all students, staff and visitors on all school property owned, leased, or rented by the district as well as all school-sponsored activities whether on- or off-site,” 24/7 Campaign Manager Hayley Hill said in a press release. “In addition, the 24/7 tobacco-free guidelines require schools to provide cessation resources as well as progressive and supportive discipline measures to assist those struggling with addiction.”

During a March 22 Peñasco Independent School District Board of Education meeting at which Hill and board members reviewed the proposed tobacco policy, Vice-President Carlos Abeyta recalled the days when he was a student in the district.

“I remember when I was in high school, you’d walk down the hallway and the teachers lounge was full of smoke, so we’ve come a long ways,” he said, adding that he felt the tobacco policy that has been in place for the past several years “was a very good policy.”

Abeyta noted that the 24/7 campaign was offering a range of resources with which to implement the updated no-tobacco policy.

“Sometimes I feel like we adopt policies and I don’t know if they even get placed in the book, to tell you the truth,” Abeyta said. “So having a policy where there is actually support, and maybe even services for kids, is excellent. We’re talking about something that’s really important here: the health of kids.”

To help promote its new comprehensive policy, Peñasco Independent School District will be receiving free resources, including the 24/7 toolkit and billingual tobacco-free signs for all school buildings and grounds, according to the release. Other free resources include faculty trainings and bilingual pre-written announcements, staff memos and parent letters explaining the policy.

“Peñasco Independent School District is exemplary in its commitment to student health, and we are delighted to celebrate the board’s recent adoption of 24/7’s 100 percent tobacco-free policy,” said Philip Cordova, health educator with the state Nicotine Use Prevention and Control Program. “We will continue to work tirelessly to find exceptional partners like PISD in school districts throughout the state, with the dream of one day seeing policy adoption at the state-level.”

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