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Wellington school keen to be part of a Smokefree nation

Children of Wellington school keen to be part of a Smokefree nation

Newtown School’s key learning for its seniors (year 6) is about being leaders.

To achieve this, the school took a novel approach, and invited Dr Prudence Stone, Executive Director of the Smokefree Coalition, to visit and encourage the students to take part in making a new law for New Zealand.

The Health Select Committee is calling for submissions from the public, on the Smokefree Environments (tobacco plain packaging) Amendments Bill. These amendments are about protecting children from exposure to tobacco company marketing. Studies have suggested children that are exposed to tobacco company marketing may be three times more likely to take up smoking than those who aren’t.

“Some children visibly freaked when I told them that” grinned Dr Stone.
For all students at Newtown school other key learnings surround ‘being safe’ and ‘managing self’. Mark Brown, Newtown’s principal, said the connection between these learning areas and the Smokefree Coalition’s messages were obvious. Dr Stone taught the children that smoking kills 5000 New Zealanders every year, and explained that this is why the companies that make tobacco products need more people to take up smoking.

“Dr Stone brought a giant plain pack for the children to look at. Their response was telling: they thought it was ugly and even scarey-looking,” said Mr Brown. “She asked them to describe the difference on the packs they saw around their homes, and made them realise the power of those bright colours and word descriptors, to make the product appealing.”

“Red”, “dark blue”, “a white stripe”, “rich”, “horizon” and “holiday” were colours and descriptors the children named when asked to describe packs in their homes. 26 children identified with living in a home where others smoked.
9 more identified with living in a home where others had given up smoking. It was these children, Dr Stone said, that she most hoped would make a submission.
“The Health Select Committee needs to hear what it’s like from a child’s point of view as they preside on this bill. The Census 2013 told us over 600,000 New Zealand children live in households where there is at least one resident smoking. These are the children vulnerable to industry marketing. These are the children this bill can protect.”

The children were asked whether they could write letter submissions to the Health Select Committee, and also to talk about what they learnt at home, encouraging their parents to submit also.

“Dr Stone told the children ‘anyone who helps make the rules in this country, or rallies others to help also, is one of this country’s leaders.’ You could see the intrigue on their faces,” Mr Brown said. “I think they liked the idea of being a leader inside their own family just as much as they liked the idea of being a leader for the country.”

Submissions to the Health Select Committee are due by 5pm Friday 28th March. They can be made online at http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/sc/make-submission/


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