Saving students from tobacco

If you are an adult who, while a teenager, broke the rules by smoking tobacco on school property, raise your hand.

We’re guessing there are a lot of hands in the air.

But there might be more except for the fact some people who picked up the tobacco habit while young were killed by it. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, heart disease or other smoking-related illness, many may have wished more had been done to keep them away from tobacco while they were young.

So getting caught using tobacco on school property is more than a case of boys and girls being boys and girls and sometimes, breaking the rules. It can be a matter of life and death.

As we have reported, nine boys got caught using an electronic smokeless tobacco device in a St. Clairsville Middle School restroom last year. The practice often is referred to as “vaping.”

School officials punished them with detention on Saturdays. We were told of one mother who grounded her son for a month because of his behavior.

School resource officer Jeff Gazdik was made aware of the incident — and, as a sworn law enforcement officer, he had no choice but to pursue charges against the boys. Possession or use of tobacco by minors is a crime in Ohio.

To their credit, no one involved seems to want the incident to stick around as a blot on the boys’ records. Instead, an arrangement was made whereby the boys can be placed in a “diversion program” rather than be prosecuted. The program, conducted by the school nurse, is aimed at educating the boys about the dangers of tobacco use, even by “vaping.”

Good. Making the boys understand the potential harm is important. Using their infraction as a lever to get them into the educational program is smart. Whether they realize it or not, getting caught “smoking in the boys’ room” when they did may, in the long run, save some of their lives.