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School Staff Want Total Ban On Smoking

School Staff Want Total Ban On Smoking

Otago Survey Reveals Overwhelming Support for Proposed Legislation

Secondary school staff strongly support proposed legislation that would make all school grounds and buildings smoke-free, a University of Otago survey has found. Without that legislation, researchers say, mixed messages on smoking will continue to undermine efforts to encourage students to be smoke-free.

Lead researcher Ms Helen Darling and supervisor Dr Tony Reeder of Otago’s Social and Behavioural Research in Cancer Group conducted a recent survey of 81 New Zealand secondary schools. Teachers were asked if they thought school staff would support proposed government legislation which would make all schools totally smoke-free in buildings and grounds. Seventy-four percent of respondents agreed.

Ms Darling and Dr Reeder will be presenting the findings at the Tobacco Control Research Strategy launch in Wellington at the Beehive this morning.

The study found that many school environments are not currently smoke-free. Only 54 percent of secondary schools were smoke-free in both buildings and grounds. “In addition to eliminating harmful exposure to second-hand smoke, smoke-free schools demonstrate positive role-modelling and reinforce other smoke-free initiatives for young people,” says Ms Darling who conducted the survey in May and November 2002 as part of her PhD studies.

Dr Tony Reeder, who supervised the project, says that while most schools surveyed provide some education about smoking, inconsistency between educational messages, school practices and staff actions may undermine tobacco smoking prevention efforts. “For example, some schools have sanctions against students caught smoking yet provide ‘smoking areas’ for staff, which sends conflicting messages to students. Consistency is the key if we are to reduce the number of young people smoking.”

The researchers concluded that smoke-free legislation proposed by the government would be the best way to achieve universal, permanent and totally smoke-free status for all schools.

“With good support for smoke-free schools among staff and parents, there could be no better time for legislation to provide totally smoke-free school environments in New Zealand,” Ms Darling said.

The survey was supported by the New Zealand Cancer Society and the Health Sponsorship Council.

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