From the teachers' lounges to the bathrooms to the stands at the athletic fields, the Inglewood Unified School District is planning to turn all its facilities into one giant nonsmoking section.
The ban on smoking, approved unanimously by the school board last week, will be implemented gradually over the next year. It is part of an anti-smoking effort in Inglewood schools that will include free health screenings for smokers as well as stop-smoking classes.
"The ban is sending a message to everybody in our district that we're concerned about the negative impacts of smoking," board President Lois Hill-Hale said.
Although there has been grumbling about the ban among some school employees who smoke, no formal opposition has emerged, and the teacher's union president, Cheryl Bell, said she has not heard from any teachers who are upset.
In adopting the ban, Inglewood joined the Los Angeles Unified School District and other school districts across the nation. A survey last year by the National School Boards Assn. said 17% of school districts nationwide ban tobacco use entirely, compared to just 2% in 1986.
Los Angeles school officials last week established designated outdoor smoking areas that are off-limits to students and plans to ban smoking everywhere in the district sometime next year.
The Inglewood ban, which was approved in concept, will go into effect next year after district officials work out a gradual plan of implementation, Hill-Hale said.
Inglewood school officials said the ban is aimed at sending a consistent message to schoolchildren that cigarette smoking is dangerous to their health. School officials point to medical evidence of tobacco's serious health effects on smokers and nonsmokers and to indications that tobacco is a so-called "gateway" substance that can start young smokers on the way to other addictive drugs.
"If the teacher is smoking and the children see them, the children think, 'Why is it OK for my teacher to smoke and not me?'," said Walter Cruz, a district staffer who is working on the anti-smoking effort. "The whole thing is, what kind of message are you sending to the children?"
Lawrence Freeman, the former principal of Inglewood High School who puffed on cigars and pipes in his office, disagreed with Cruz's assessment.
"I don't think kids judge us on whether we smoke or not," said Freeman, who retired earlier this year. "They judge us on whether we prepare our lesson plans and get our material across to them. They don't judge us on whether we take a puff on a pipe."
Freeman said the ban will be tough for the district to enforce.
Enforcement will be one of the areas that district officials will consider before the ban goes into effect, spokesman Maurice Wiley said.
To augment the ban, Inglewood's schools have joined with the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCLA in a research program to aid adult minority smokers in kicking the habit. The program is still seeking volunteers from Inglewood.
"The minority community is disproportionately struggling with high rates of smoking and the health implications," UCLA researcher Barbara Berman said. "The hazards are there and the health risks are there. We want to make sure the programs are."
Adults who volunteer for the stop-smoking program will receive a free health screening that otherwise would cost more than $200, information on nutrition and exercise, and tips on quitting smoking.
"The notion that you just make a decision and bite the bullet is not what we're doing," Berman said. "We're communicating specific techniques and strategies."
She said smokers will be told to do such things as write down every time they have a cigarette and avoid situations that trigger smoking for them.
Researchers will keep in touch with the participants at three-month intervals to follow their progress, Berman said.