PROVIDENCE, RI | January 9, 2019
As part of its shared commitment to building healthier communities, the American Lung Association and CVS Health have partnered to help Rhode Island schools design, implement and enforce new tobacco-free policies, in an effort to address the rising rates of e-cigarette use among youth. Today, 1 in 4 high school students in Rhode Island have used e-cigarettes, with those numbers expected to increase, according to Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. In 2018, a new state law went into effect to help create a tobacco-free school environment in Rhode Island, which included a ban on all e-cigarettes and vape products from schools and related properties.
Through a $30,000 grant from CVS Health, Tobacco Free Rhode Island (TFRI), a program of the American Lung Association, will spearhead the initiative to help schools understand the new law, and design, communicate and enforce tobacco-free school policies. This initiative will include research into national best practices on this issue, trainings for administrators, teachers, and students, and technical assistance for schools across the state. CVS Health also donated approximately $6,000 to purchase 950 durable, outdoor, tobacco-free school signs, and is working with TFRI and the Rhode Island Department of Health to distribute three signs to each K-12 school in the state. This funding is part of the company’s Be The First commitment, a 5-year, $50 million initiative that aims to deliver the first tobacco-free generation.
“According to the American Lung Association’s 2018 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report, 25 percent of high school students in Rhode Island currently use tobacco, and we know that e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth,” said Jennifer Wall, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Rhode Island. “Smokefree laws, including the tobacco-free schools policy, are important steps in creating healthier environments for students, educators and all Rhode Islanders.”
“Through our support of the American Lung Association and Tobacco Free Rhode Island, we are able to deliver local solutions to help our communities address their unique health needs,” said Eileen Howard Boone, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, CVS Health. “Educating the public about Rhode Island’s new smokefree schools policy is vital to the success of addressing e-cigarette use among youth, and in promoting healthy air for our children to breathe. Research has shown that school tobacco-free policies that are clearly and consistently communicated, applied and enforced can help reduce tobacco use.”
Updating smokefree laws to include e-cigarettes is a key component of protecting the public from secondhand e-cigarette emissions. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless and may contain harmful and potentially harmful chemicals, including nicotine. Other studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (all carcinogens) contained in these secondhand emissions. Despite the reported risks, the use of electronic cigarettes, JUUL, e-cigars, e-hookahs and similar products have dramatically increased, especially among youth. Without updated smokefree laws, community members of all ages are increasingly exposed to secondhand emissions from electronic cigarettes on public transportation, in bars and restaurants, at sporting events, concerts and, until now in Rhode Island, schools.
The use of electronic cigarettes, e-cigars, e-hookahs and similar products has dramatically increased among children. Nationally, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among both high school and middle school students with 20.8 percent of high school students and 4.9 percent of middle school students using them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 Youth Tobacco Survey.
Daniel Fitzgerald, Network Coordinator of Tobacco Free Rhode Island said, “Every Rhode Island child should have the right to go to school and breathe clean air. This law, coupled with our robust awareness effort, will help to make this a reality.”
Tobacco Free Rhode Island (TFRI) is a statewide network of organizations and individuals working to reduce tobacco use – the leading cause of preventable death in Rhode Island. Partners include a total of 82 organizations ranging from community prevention coalitions, to state and regional medical societies, and national partners such as the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association. TFRI facilitates communication and shares information, in order to provide a wealth of resources and action strategies for people and organizations trying to create policy change.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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