We have recently been asked to take part in a campaign to protect children from Second Hand Smoke. The campaign explains to parents and carers the dangers of Second Hand Smoke for children. Then children make and take home leaflets asking their families to pledge not to smoke in the house/car OR to smoke in a room that children don’t use.
Apart from my heart sinking that we have yet another demand on our severely overloaded curriculum, I felt very torn by the conflicting rights of the adult and the child in this campaign. As a child, I was subjected to Second Hand Smoke to an alarming rate, which subsequently has led to me HATING cigarette smoke with a passion. I don’t want the children in my school to be subject so Second Hand Smoke. On the other hand, adults have the right to make their own decisions and should we use children to pressurise parents and carers?
On top of that, if the school becomes a moral judge on parents and carers, how can we work in an equal, respecting partnership? As a parent says below, “Won’t we alienate the very people we are working hard to engage in education?”
However, the programme has been used in all West Lothian Schools and allegedly comes with Don Ledingham’s endorsement so…..
…. I circulated the email to staff and to the Parent Council for their consideration and asked them to reply to all so we could engage in online debate on the issue. I’ve since asked if I can publish the responses on the website and so here they are.
“I am all for things like this in schools, my son was taught about the dangers and effects of drugs,drinking and smoking in primary 4 and at that time I was a smoker myself,but to hear your child speak about the effect of smoking and the dangers to his health really hit home and thanks to the primary school teaching this. I have been a non-smoker for 4 years and please feel free to use this as an example”
“If this was as part of a Health Week, then it could be useful and relevant. As a stand-alone project it may well go beyond parental ‘involvement’ and into the realm of ‘interference’ – and may be well ineffective. At the risk of sounding like my 11 year old: What’s the point? This WHO report from 2006 ( www.euro.who.int/document/e88185.pdf ) casts some doubt on whether Health Promoting Schools are effective in improving health and well-being in the long-term.”
“Like you Sheila, I am also a smoke hater who grew up as a passive smoker and do everything possible to avoid being in someone’s company when they are smoking. I do however think the school should teach the dangers of smoking, as well as the effects of drink & drugs but must stop short of interfering. It can be difficult enough to get parents/carers on side with the school and parent council and I could see this being a barrier to some.”
“By all means teach kids the rights and wrongs of smoking, alcohol and drugs but it must be treated delicately with a view of children trying to tell their parents not to do it, as it is a strong interference into personal lives and may cause may harm than good.”
“This raises a range of ethical and moral dilemmas for us all. I too had experience of a childhood, both graced by loving parents, and blighted by passive smoking. Let us all remember the perspective of power. We have power, as parents, over the choices with our children. Professional staff have the power with parents, in their professional relationship and role. So much good can be done by the professional team, ensuring parents are enabled to make informed, beneficial choices for their families. However, respect for private family life (Article 8, ECHR) must be respected before intervention. A difficult one to balance, but I would argue caution before intervention. If we get too obsessed re the vague Curriculum for Excellence, do children end up attempting to ensure the outcome asked for ? Yes, smoking is one of the many perils our children face. But many other are faced every day. From my view, there are better things for the school team to spend time on! “
What’s your thoughts?