Smoking ban head is a class act

By on 22/10/2013 in Blog

Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips reflects on the controversy surrounding one head teacher’s decision to ban smoking at the school gates.

Should smoking be banned outside school gates? Now there’s a question.

Well let me put that another way: Is it right that some children are exposed to secondary smoke twice a day, five days a week?

I’ve been prompted to ask those questions because I was staggered to read that a London headteacher has become the victim of a hate campaign after banning parents smoking outside the school gates. Yes really ‘a hate campaign’.

Susan Papas, head of Selsdon Primary School, has vowed to stand her ground because she believes smoking around young children sets a bad example.

Good for her!

Now this story stems from London, not Birmingham, but the principles are universal and the very fact that her actions have prompted such a flurry of protest speaks volumes.

The pro-smoking lobby is very quick to pounce on anything it perceives as an attack on the rights of the individual. the examples of the smoking ban and plain packaging immediately spring to mind.

Of course smokers have a right to make their own choices – foolish though those choices may be.

But those same freedoms should be extended to non-smokers – especially to our children. Shouldn’t they have the freedom not to have to force their way through a cloud of cigarette smoke at the beginning and end of the school day?

I’m sure the vast majority of smokers wouldn’t dream of smoking at the school gates but if there is a minority of thoughtless, selfish smokers at any school, I hope the head teacher would follow Susan Papas’ lead.

We don’t allow smoking in pubs, we don’t allow smoking in restaurants, we don’t allow smoking in workplaces. So why should it be OK to light up at the school gates?

Aside from the obvious health implications associated with secondary smoke, what kind of example is it to children if they see adults smoking like chimneys. Aren’t we supposed to be positive role-models for our kids? What kind of role model is not only happy to smoke around children but also becomes abusive the minute this ‘right’ is questioned? It beggars belief.

As our Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, former smoker Cllr Steve Bedser, often says: Very few, if any, smokers actually want children to take up this deadly habit. Our instinct is surely to protect our children from any potential danger.

So, good for Susan Papas. I applaud her courage in taking a stand and I hope she continues to stand firm.

The children of Selsdon Primary School will surely benefit and if that upsets a few militant smokers – tough.

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