Tighten school tobacco policy
Tobacco Free Hernando, partnering with the Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition, its youth group Chill Smart and Hernando County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), is asking the Hernando County School Board to revise its tobacco-free school campus policy and pass a comprehensive 100 percent tobacco-free policy designed to ensure a safe learning and work environment.
What is the definition of a 100 percent tobacco-free school district? A school district that prohibits tobacco use at all times, by anyone, on school grounds and at school events. This includes students, teachers, school staff, and visitors. This policy should create a culture at our schools that we are 100 percent tobacco-free and an expectation that other drugs are also not tolerated. Over 50 percent of a student's day is spent at school, and their attitudes towards tobacco use are influenced by their peers and educators at school.
The Pro Children Act of 1994, reinforced by the Pro Children Act of 2001, states "No person shall permit smoking within any indoor facility owned or leased or contracted for and utilized by such person for provision of routine or regular kindergarten, elementary, or secondary education or library service to children." The Tobacco Free Hernando Partnership believes that the current school district policy, which was adopted in February 2000 and consists of only two sentences, is not comprehensive enough and does not address all that this law directs.
Chill Smart and SWAT members have worked hard to collect hundreds of signatures, students and adults alike, on a petition that states "We the undersigned ask our local board of education to mandate a policy requiring all public school buildings, grounds, and events to be 100 percent tobacco free."
They have also conducted a survey of Hernando County youth, and plan on presenting all of the facts they've obtained at a Hernando County School Board workshop in the near future.
They, along with the Health Department, had a table at Anderson Snow Park for the Great American Smoke-Out Nov. 18. They gave out bags with literature, information and items to help anyone that wanted to quit smoking. They also acquired signatures on the petitions, gave out other anti-tobacco items and picked up many cigarette butts from the park grounds.
Tobacco Free Hernando is a group of local individuals and community agencies who are committed to a Tobacco Free Hernando County. It is a community initiative targeting youth attitudes, behaviors and tobacco access, to mobilize and address tobacco policy and system changes in Hernando. The group consists of a wide array of adults from both the public and private sector, local youth leaders, and members of the general public. Tobacco Free Hernando is supported by a Community-Based Tobacco Prevention Grant through the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Prevention Programs.
Shari Noriega, Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition
Celebrate state's natural wonders
In this season of celebration and giving thanks, we should celebrate the natural wonders of our public lands. Florida's rich natural heritage is woven through the wild places that all of us own together, and that are managed for us in trust by our local, state, and federal governments. These amazing natural places, places that define what it means to be a Floridian, are the birthright of every Floridian and belong to future generations as they belong to us.
My wife and I recently adopted two children and one of the most incredible and enjoyable things our new family has shared together is time spent exploring and enjoying our public lands. We have hiked through Cypress Lakes Preserve, paddled down the Withlacoochee River, snorkeled in the Gulf of Mexico at Pine Island, looked for wildlife at Chinsegut Nature Center, and swam in the cool clear waters of Juniper Springs. These places helped our new family bond, and helped introduce our children to their natural heritage.
My kids and I have explored the Withlacoochee River in the big old red canoe that my father bought when I was a kid. The first time we went paddling together on a cool fall day, my children got to see the same places and wildlife that I saw in the canoe on that river decades ago.
The legacy being passed to them was passed to me by my parents and grandparents. I want my children to see a Florida black bear in the wild as I have been so blessed to have seen. I want them to fish clean waters, hike through longleaf pines, hear birds and frogs calling, and pass those experiences on to their children.
We should all work to ensure that our public lands are valued and protected, and that our grandchildren know the Florida our grandparents knew. Each generation must protect the right of the next generation to know and love natural Florida.
Anyone who hunts, fishes, paddles, sails, snorkels, birds, rides horses, hikes, or otherwise recreates on our public lands understands what an incredible resource they are and how valuable they are. We must continue the work to acquire new public lands and manage our current public lands for their highest conservation value.
Our public lands provide tremendous public benefits at little cost to Floridians. They help filter our water, protect our communities from flooding, provide critical habitat for wildlife that we love, and create economic activity through recreation and ecotourism.
In the Nature Coast they provide some of the best and most sustainable economic development opportunities we have. People come here to explore and enjoy nature and the amazing mosaic of wetlands, uplands and sandhills, rivers, and coastlines we are blessed with. Our public lands nourish our spirits, and our economy.
As we begin to formulate our resolutions for 2011, let us resolve to spend more time outside under the sun or the moon and in and on the waters, trails, and back roads of our public lands. Let's take our kids out into the woods and share with them all the wonders of nature. Our public lands are our children's public lands, and they bind generations together in a shared love of nature. All of us have the responsibility to be good stewards of our public lands, and future generations will thank us for protecting their natural heritage.
Joe Murphy, Ridge Manor