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Smokefree regulations unworkable in school grounds

New Zealand School Trustees Association is warning that fewer parents may volunteer to help with school activities due to proposed stringent smoking bans set down by the Government.

President Owen Edgerton says the Government’s proposed ban on smoking in educational institutions will have serious ramifications for schools, and adversely affect how schools are run.

The Smoke Free Environments [Enhanced Protection] Amendment Bill proposes a total ban on smoking in educational institutions. This includes buildings, around schools grounds, and during school activities held off the schools grounds. The ban also applies to events run by outside groups at the school.

Owen Edgerton says NZSTA supports moves to enhance the protection of non-smokers, and also agrees that students seeing adults smoking does not provide with them good role models. However, more thought needs to go into how the proposal will impact on schools.

“Take the example of school camps, this bill is saying that parents can’t smoke while they are attending that camp. Schools are dependent on the goodwill of parents in terms of running successful and safe camps, and we would hate to see parents being put off volunteering because of these rules.”

In addition, the ban will have a big impact on the financial situation of many schools that rent out rooms, halls and facilities to community groups.

He says the ban also applies to outsiders using the schools, and it may mean these groups go elsewhere, leaving schools without this much needed income.

On the other side of the coin, Owen Edgerton says it would be impossible to enforce the ban on outside groups unless the school policed the area 24 hours a day. Boards will still be liable for outside groups who don’t stick to the ban.

“It is relatively easy to enforce a ban in a business office situation, it is virtually impossible to do the same thing in schools, as a lot of people pass through school grounds in the course of the week including outside school hours.

“The harsh reality is that boards may have to rethink the policy of allowing the wider community to benefit from school facilities. Otherwise boards could end up being faced with fines if outsiders break the smoking ban. Both parties, the school and the community group, could end up suffering because of it.”

Owen Edgerton says NZSTA is urging MPs to rethink the wider implications of the smokefree policy.

[ends]

For more information contact Owen Edgerton. Phone: (025) 441-397.


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