Effective April 19, Hilliard City Schools will become tobacco-free.

Effective April 19, Hilliard City Schools will become tobacco-free.

Tobacco use will be prohibited at all times on all properties owned, leased or contracted by the district, including athletic facilities, buildings, school grounds, parking lots and vehicles. The prohibition includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and dip or snuff in any form. Expect to see new signs with the tobacco-free message on school grounds and buildings in the coming weeks.

A "Superintendent's Message" dated March 16 announcing the policy change was posted on the Hilliard City Schools' Web site.

In the message, Superintendent Dale McVey wrote, "After much research and deliberation, the district has decided to make a significant change in our current practice and establish a tobacco-free policy for our school properties."

Tightening the district's tobacco policy was done to "protect and promote the health and well-being of all our students and staff members," McVey said. He noted that other central Ohio schools and businesses have similar policies.

Tobacco use is harmful to users and nonusers, he wrote. "According to Smoke Free Ohio, secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard, containing more than 60 known or probable carcinogens and more than 4,000 chemicals. Annually, secondhand smoke is responsible for thousands of deaths in otherwise healthy nonsmokers."

The district's current policy allows for designated spots outdoors where people can smoke, but those would be eliminated under the new policy.

"We aren't really changing the policy here, what we're doing is strengthening the practice," said Tim Hamilton, assistant superintendent of operations.

"We already had in our policy that the board recognizes the health issues connected with tobacco, and that they're dedicated to providing a healthy, comfortable environment for schools, so we decided to strengthen the policy."

Hamilton said a policy review committee studied the issue for a year-and-a-half, and "we're comfortable that this is a step in the right direction."