Tobacco money to support bathroom monitors in Massachusetts schools

No more smoking in the boys’ rooms in several Massachusetts communities. Under a trial program expected to begin this fall, some local schools would post monitors to look for students who smoke on campus—including in the bathrooms.

The monitors are to be funded by The Northeast Regional Tobacco Education Collaborative, which recently received $100,000 from the state’s share of the national tobacco settlement. The group plans to use the funds to set up monitoring programs at schools in Georgetown, Haverhill, Amesbury, Pentucket, Triton, and Newburyport.

The idea has received a warm reception from many school officials.

“Anyone will tell you, you can have fines and penalties, but unless you have someone monitoring the bathrooms, there is going to be smoke in the bathrooms on a regular basis,” Georgetown’s dean of students, Alan Haddad, told The Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence.

The number of Massachusetts teens who smoke has dropped from 35 percent in 1993 to 28 percent in 1998, according to state figures. Innovative approaches to help further reduce that number are welcome, said Gregory Connolly, director of the Department of Public Health’s tobacco control program.

Not everyone, however, thinks school monitors are the best use of tobacco settlement money, approximately one-quarter of which is slated for smoking prevention.

“Yes, if there is an adult standing in the bathroom, it will deter smoking,” said Robert Gulardo, supervisor of health and physical education for Haverhill schools. “But Haverhill High has lots of lavatories. Hiring one or two monitors would not improve anything.”

The collaborative also will allocate money to the schools to offer teens classes on quitting smoking, said Krystine Hetel-Blackenship, the collaborative’s director.

Local school committees need to approve the plans before the programs can start.

eSchool News Staff

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