Parents and guests at events are about to lose their tobacco privileges on any school property at Johnstown-Monroe Local Schools.

Parents and guests at events are about to lose their tobacco privileges on any school property at Johnstown-Monroe Local Schools.

J-M school board president John Davis on Feb. 24 said the school district would become 100 percent tobacco-free as soon as signs are ordered and put up around the schools.

The board voted to change its policy on Feb. 14 when Chad Brown, director of community health in Licking County, and Mary Richardson presented reasons for going 100 percent tobacco-free at the school board meeting.

The district is already 100 percent smoke-free in accordance with state law.

Richardson, speaking on behalf of the health education department, said the policy prohibits all, "tobacco use, smoking and smokeless tobacco products on all school property and all school events."

She said most schools have policies that ban students from smoking, "but they do not include the visitors or parents or people who are coming to events."

The new policy would prohibit anyone from smoking or using tobacco products on school grounds, not just students, Richardson said.

She said the district now joins Newark City, Licking Valley, and Per Excellence, a private school in Licking County with the same policy.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, Johnstown-Monroe will become the 50th school district in the state switching to a 100 percent tobacco-free policy.

An Ohio Department of Health spokesperson said it's also looking into a districtwide ban of tobacco products on school property, which includes buses and vehicles, to parents and visitors as well as at off-campus school events.

To help make the transition easier for the community, Davis said the schools would make public announcements and list the new policy in sporting programs.

He said school officials might need to monitor the issue at sporting events to enforce the new policy.

"I know even at basketball games people will walk outside and think they are OK," Davis said, "so we'll just have to try to police that the best we can."

Richardson acknowledged that some schools have trouble enforcing the policy.

She said those school administrators recommend "getting everyone involved."

"Having everyone help enforce this policy," Richardson said, "Having students get involved or having enforcement officers, whether that's a parent or school teacher or a coach."

Richardson said there are several benefits to becoming a 100 percent tobacco-free school.

"It provides positive role modeling, it reduces youth observation of tobacco use. It supports preventive messages," she said.

Richardson said Licking County would provide some assistance to Johnstown-Monroe.

She said the county health department could provide a $2,500 stipend and even offer cessation services to school district employees to help them to try to quit smoking.

Richardson said the health department would also help with a "communications plan, tobacco-free signage and money set aside to provide incentives to promote the policy."

Some of those incentives include giving away basketballs or stadium cushions at sporting events "just thanking people for supporting the policy."

Supporting that policy, Richardson said, will keep students away from a dangerous drug.

"Schools are responsible for providing a safe environment for their students," Richardson said. "If they don't see it at school or at school functions then their chances will be decreased."

Johnstown-Monroe superintendent Damien Bawn, through an email on Feb. 24, said he anticipates the "transition to be completed during the summer and full implementation to start with the new school year."