Gaffney Students Celebrate New Tobacco Use Policy
May 16, 2016

Machias – On Friday, May 6th, students participating in Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School’s One Voice and the Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) program hosted a spaghetti supper for parents, students, teachers, and community members. The event provided an opportunity for the students to share the successful outcome of their year-long effort to revise their campus tobacco policy.

The students’ decision to revise the school’s tobacco policy began in late fall of 2014, when they noticed cigarette butts littering the school’s playground. They also witnessed people smoking on school grounds during both non-school sponsored events and school sporting events. The students wanted to ensure that there were policies in place against this behavior.

Early in the 2014-15 school year, the One Voice students began the process of revising the campus tobacco policy, which covers both Rose M. Gaffney and Machias Memorial High School and all of the surrounding grounds. The revised policy was approved by the school board last spring and submitted to the state for approval in the fall of 2015.

This spring, the student group received word that the policy had been approved at the state level, along with a package containing new “Tobacco Free School” signage from the State of Maine Partnership of Tobacco Free Maine program. The new signs will be displayed prominently throughout the campus grounds of both schools.

At the Friday evening event, the students showed a brief video highlighting the changes to the schools’ tobacco policy. They emphasized that no tobacco products, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco, are permitted on campus grounds, including playgrounds, athletic fields and parking lots. “If you are using tobacco products on our school campus, we first have the right to ask you to stop. If you do not stop, we would then ask you to leave, and if you do not leave, then we will call the authorities.” One student quoted from the new policy. When queried by an event attendee as to their motivation to take on school policy, the students cited pride in their school and a desire to keep their school safe, healthy and clean for all.

One Voice is a program of Healthy Acadia that empowers youth throughout Washington County to make positive change in their schools and their communities. The program aims to increase youth leadership and advocacy skills so that they can say “No” to harmful substances and other risky behaviors. If your school or youth group is interested in starting a One Voice group or reviewing/revising their school tobacco, substances, or wellness policies, please contact Terri Woodruff at terri@healthyacadia.org or (207) 255-3741.