Opinion: Smoke-free schools

POSTED: 09/12/12 12:50 PM

Here is an initiative we’re able to relate to: the campaign to have smoke-free schools by 2014. Since this is our opinion page we have of course some questions and also some suggestions. The first question is, obviously, why it would have to take until 2014 to make all schools in St. Maarten smoke-free. After all, our government is able to increase gas prices twice a week and usually within 24 hours. What’s the big deal? Have those schools smoke-free by Christmas – and even that moment seems to be far, far away.
The second question is of course: why smoke-free schools? We figure that this commendable campaign by the Collective Preventive Service (can’t these guys come up with a more jazzy name?) is targeting teachers, not students.
So why are teachers now, so to speak, in the line of fire? It would have made more sense to target the St. Maarten Medical Center for this initiative. The building is, figuratively speaking of course, already on fire, and there is a lot of smoke that needs to be cleared there.
And, on a more serious note, the hospital is really the obvious place to start. Imagine a teacher who has given up smoking arriving at the hospital where nurses and doctors are lighting up like there is no tomorrow. That sets a bad example.
Though now that we think about it, there are already plenty of places where smoking simply does not happen. The Today offices are one example, but we’ve never seen anybody smoke in the parliament building, the courthouse or the A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall either.
There is one place where a ban on smoking would have an effect that goes beyond people’s health and that is the prison. If the prison became a no-smoking zone, many wannabe criminals would think twice before robbing another supermarket. Research in a district in the United Kingdom has shown that a prison smoking ban leads to less crime, and therefore also to less pressure on the prison system, the police and the court.
Maybe schools were picked based on the thought that teachers have to lead by example. There is something to say for that, but otherwise the choice comes across as rather random.
And again: if the government really wants to declare schools no-smoking zones, it could do this overnight.
Since smoking has such obvious negative health-effects it could also be an idea to target our politicians. Not all of them smoke, but some of them do. Why not ask one of those smokers to become the poster child for a new non-smoking movement? It’s a nice opportunity to lead by example and to make the point that smokers contribute to the high costs of healthcare.
That the MP brave enough to take this step may come forward.

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