You can no longer smoke on school property or at any school function in Virginia.

A law banning tobacco on school property for every school district in the state went into effect July 1, but its effects will really be felt with the start of the school year Tuesday. The law also outlaws tobacco in every school-related setting, including school activities off campus.

Virginia is one of just 19 states to have a full school tobacco ban.

“For youth and children, if they don’t see tobacco and e-cigarette use, that creates a norm that it is not acceptable,” said Marge White, the deputy director of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.

While many school systems across the state have had to craft the comprehensive policies this summer, some in the Richmond region already had them.

School districts in the counties of Caroline, Charles City, Chesterfield, Henrico, King William and Powhatan already had the full policies, along with the cities of Hopewell, Petersburg and Richmond. They were 10 of 47 across the state to do so.

“We believe in promoting healthy lifestyles for our students, both physically and mentally,” Richmond Public Schools said in a statement.

Andy Jenks, a spokesman for Henrico County Public Schools, said the school system has been tobacco free since 2013 and it’s “very important to us.”

“We believe strongly in a healthy, comfortable and productive environment for our staff, students, families and visitors,” Jenks said. “Just as healthy students perform optimally, so do healthy staff.

“While tobacco use is a personal decision for those of legal age, studies show the damaging physical, psychological, social, and educational effects it has on our students.”

Hanover County Public Schools approved its policy at its July 2 meeting.

The new policies also cover e-cigarette use.

About 12% of high school students in the state use e-cigarettes, according to state data, a rate nearly double the number smoking traditional cigarettes.

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Twitter: @jmattingly306

Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers K-12 schools and higher education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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