The DeKalb County School System has teamed up with the DeKalb County Board of Health (BOH) to cut down on smoking throughout the system as part of the board’s “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” program.
The BOH was awarded a grant for the program as part of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Prevention and Wellness Initiative, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative.
“It was also part of our efforts with the smoking ordinance, these are the same funds,” Karen Robinson-Falley said.
Robinson-Falley, who is the DeKalb Board of Health spokeswoman for the tobacco program, said that according to studies, most smokers begin at the age of 13. She said that although the smoking ordinance “unfortunately” did not pass, the funds allowed the BOH to create a part time position to assist the school system.
According to BOH statistics, in 2005 when the state began to implement stricter smoking laws, approximately 46 percent of DeKalb County high school students had tried smoking cigarettes.
However, the most recent statistics in 2010 show that number has decreased to approximately 44 percent. The number of students surveyed who had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days also decreased.
“What’s on the increase is students smoking cigars and cigarillos, an increase to 12.8 percent,” Robinson-Falley said.
The DeKalb County School District’s Prevention Intervention Department is collaborating with the BOH to promote tobacco prevention by implementing activities for students, staff and parents. The plan also includes the promotion of the school board’s tobacco policy and tobacco-related health education curriculum.
“We’re partnering with them through the ASPIRE program and it’s a program with the students in DeKalb who are starting to smoke—it’s an alternative to in-school suspension,” Robinson-Falley said.
Aspire is an acronym for “A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience,” which allows students to access an interactive program about the dangers of smoking. Robinson-Falley said if a student is caught smoking at school, he or she will have the option of working through the ASPIRE program rather than facing in-school suspension.
“For those students who have begun to smoke, it’s a way for them to quit. In addition to that they also learn about the Georgia Quitline and for those that qualify, nicotine replacement therapy is available, including for students as young as 13,” Robinson-Falley said.
The Georgia Quitline is a 24-hour helpline run by the Cancer Coalition of Georgia that offers treatment and support to both adults as well as children. Robinson-Falley said that the therapy can range from free access to nicotine gum or patches for those students who qualify, and it’s also available to school system staff.
“Any type of drug treatment where they replace your daily nicotine intake,” she said. “We are really trying to build our relationship with [the school system] to help students not even start smoking.”