Proposal targets student smoking
HUNTINGTON - Students caught smoking would face fines, community service, home confinement or even more homework under a proposed Huntington City Council ordinance.
The law would copy Winfield and Hurricane ordinances that send minors accused of using or possessing tobacco products to a municipal judge.State law already prohibits tobacco use or possession for minors, but it's rarely enforced, said Stan Mills, chief sanitarian with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.
Huntington's proposed ordinance would spell out specific punishments for minors caught with tobacco, such as writing essays or research papers - or, like in Winfield, cleaning dog kennels at an animal shelter. It would also allow a municipal judge to hear the case instead of a county magistrate.
"A few years ago, the magistrate courts told us to write petitions and send these kids to court,'' said Huntington High School Principal Jerry Lake. "After a month of that, they said there were too many.''
Lake said he disciplines 150 to 175 students a year for using tobacco. Since Hurricane adopted its ordinance Jan. 2, tobacco use at Hurricane High School dropped by 60 percent, Principal Bill Sanders said.
The Partnership for a Tobacco Free Environment, a group of residents, health department workers and Marshall University representatives, is pushing the Huntington ordinance. Supporters say the city needs an ordinance to maintain a healthy environment in schools. Opponents say the ordinance would overstep boundaries by telling parents how to raise their children.