Tuesday, October 22, 2013

British school just now bans smoking on campus for kids 11-16...

Just read an article about Elmete Central School in Roundhay, Leeds in the U.K.  The school, which is for kids who have educational or behavioral problems, had been allowing children as young as 11 to smoke cigarettes during breaks.  Recently, the policy was challenged and smoking was subsequently banned on campus.  On the surface, this seems like a sensible thing to do.  It is illegal in Great Britain for people under age 18 to smoke, so why would it ever be allowed on a school campus?

As I read this article, it occurred to me how things change.  When I was a freshman in high school back in 1986, students who had their parents' permission were allowed to smoke in the courtyards during lunch.  The courtyards, now since filled in and turned into office space, were outdoor areas surrounded by the school building.  Kids who smoked could go out there and light up, alleviating their nic fits while leaving the restrooms free and accessible for those who actually needed to take a piss.

By the time I was a sophomore in 1987, the smoking privileges were stripped away and students were no longer allowed to smoke in the courtyard.  The smokers, now needing a new place to indulge their habit, simply moved to the bathrooms and smoked in the stalls.  Those of us who needed to pee were out of luck, even though we had a mere five minutes to get from one part of the school to another between classes.

I remember thinking that if they were going to take smoking out of the schools, they ought to at least enforce the rule by preventing people from smoking in the bathrooms.  But hell, a lot of the girls were smoking in the bathroom right across from the main office.  I distinctly remember dreading needing to use the bathroom after lunch.  There was always a big cloud of smoke and I'd go in there smelling somewhat fresh and come out smelling like a tobacco factory.

I look at this smoking ban in Britain in a similar way.  The kids were allowed to smoke in an effort to keep them in school and prevent them from being truant.  Eleven year old kids should certainly not be smoking... and really, it's an unhealthy habit for anyone.  But what's worse?  Letting kids smoke and getting them to go to school?  Or taking away their cigarettes and risking that they won't go to school?  This is an honest question.  Kids often don't know how decisions they make when they are very young and immature will affect them.  A lot of people start smoking when they are very young, which leads to a lifetime of smoking and all the adverse affects smoking has on one's body... not to mention the way it negatively affects other people.

A smoking habit, besides being expensive and unhealthy, will eventually become inconvenient.  Many people don't like being around smokers and don't want to share public space with them.  Go on CruiseCritic and read the many threads dedicated to smoking on cruise ships and how it affects and annoys other people.

On the other hand, it is potentially damaging to children when they drop out of school or otherwise fail to become educated.  And children having nic fits are potentially disruptive to others.  We could go all hard core and say that kids need to understand that education is both necessary and something of a privilege.  Those who can't conform to the rules should not be allowed to screw things up for others.  But then, we also have to keep in mind that young people are often foolish and don't know how their past decisions may affect their futures.

Personally, I am not a smoker.  I think it's a nasty, dirty, expensive habit... I wouldn't want it around any child of mine.  But there are still many places in the world where smoking is embraced and part of the culture.  I don't know that it's wise to let such young kids smoke and definitely not in school.  But if smoking keeps your potentially troublesome students calm and focused, well... what do you do?  And which is the bigger evil?


  1. This is a tough call. I've never even felt the slightest temptation to touch a cigarette, but others my age are beyond hooked. my high school was more acadmically oriented than most, but all bathrooms except the one in the main hall and the one attached to the girls' locker room were smokehouses. The nonsmokers, which were about 95%of the student population, at least had those two restrooms. I don't think nonsmokers should have to tolerate sigarette smoke.

    1. I just wish that if schools are going to have no smoking rules, they would actually enforce the no smoking rules... or give designate a place for them to go have their cigarette breaks. Bathrooms should not be used as a smoker's hangout.


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