Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Schools face smoking ban
Staff may be forced to leave school premises for a cigarette
A ban on adults smoking could be imposed at all schools in Norfolk.
The county's education committee is set to discuss a proposed ban, which would prevent staff and visitors lighting up on school premises.
The idea has been put forward by the education department's health and safety committee, and a report recommending the ban will go before the committee in the autumn.
The move follows a recent survey published by the Health Education Authority (HEA) which suggested that two thirds of schools in England allowed adults to smoke on their premises.
The HEA said the result of the survey revealed the urgent need for a better example to be given to children by completely banning cigarettes from schools.
A council spokesman said many schools already had a ban in place, but the idea behind the proposal was to establish a county-wide policy.
"It's not a particularly good example for children who are on one hand being told they shouldn't be smoking, and on the other maybe knowing there is a smoking room or a staffroom where people one hopes they look up to still carry on smoking."
But he said it was a much more complex issue than it first appeared, and needed to be handled carefully and sensitively.
'Schools and tobacco should not mix'
"It's difficult. It may be all right for a very, very large secondary school to put aside a room for smokers, but we have over 400 schools, and very many of them are very small.
"Some people who may smoke may not want to continue, and may find this encourages them to give up."
The spokesman said that unions of which teachers and other school staff were members had given a "positive response" to the proposal, which is also backed by the anti-smoking pressure group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash).
Ash Director Clive Bates said: "A school is a place where kids are supposed to be immersed in positive influences, learning, finding out about life, and seeing good role models. Smoking has no place in that.
"The best teachers can be incredibly influential. Schools and tobacco should not mix.
Peter Eldridge, Norfolk Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that while the union had given a "positive response" in consultation on the proposal, it would have to be carried out sensitively and over a period of time.
"My personal opinion is that it would be better if schools had a smoking place on site which was away from the view of the children, rather than having some members of staff standing outside the gates smoking in full view of everyone.
"It should take time to be implemented fully so that smokers can think about giving up, or make arrangements to go off site."
But Martin Ball, Campaigns Director of the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest), said the proposed ban was part of the "whole process of stigmatising and vilifying tobacco consumers".
"Part of the point of education is to learn to be broad-minded, exploring things and taking on board different view points.
"This is saying that teachers are bad teachers if they smoke. It's out of synch with tolerance for different views, cultures, religions and sexualities.
"There is a disparity between the ethos of education and bigoted intolerance."
"Teachers are under enough pressure as it is. It might drive people out of the profession at a time when we are trying to encourage people to join it."