(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Teachers who smoke in schools will be punished by fines and sanctions, the Knesset Committee on Children’s Rights decided on Monday. The decision was made after committee head MK Yifat Shasha-Biton demanded that sanctions be imposed against those who violate the law that prohibits smoking in educational institutions.
An Education Ministry representative said a circular will soon be published explaining that teachers might be called before a disciplinary committee if they do not obey the law.
Those present at the meeting also heard that many pupils smoke in school, even though it is illegal to sell tobacco products to minors. Public health activists have advocated raising the legal age for the sale and possession of tobacco products to 21, but the Health and Justice ministries are against the change.
Shasha-Biton said a report published recently showed the ease of selling cigarettes to minors. “We received inquiries from parents from around the country about their children returning home with cigarettes, and they didn’t understand why it was happening. It is very sad to see children ages 13 and 14 selling cigarettes without being stopped.”
She added that some schools allow smoking in “smoking corners.” They explain that it is better for students to stay inside the school and smoke there rather than leave the premises. Shasha-Biton asked if anything more significant than sanctions and a circular, something with “teeth,” can prevent smoking in a school. Allowing children to smoke in school, she said, “gives this dangerous act legitimacy.”
Likud MK Yehuda Glick said that about 40% of the smokers started smoking before the age of 18, and another 40% before the age of 21. Sixty percent of the smokers would like to stop and cannot, he said. “They started from one or two cigarettes and were drawn to it.”
The committee chairman said, “There must be a principal in each school who takes responsibility and doesn’t close his eyes to what’s going on. He must make it clear that there is no smoking in schools, including in ‘smoking corners.’”
Health Ministry representatives admitted that the law was being violated and there was little enforcement. A national program to reduce smoking was approved in 2011 but never implemented because it was not budgeted.
Shasha-Biton said that within a month, at the next session on the subject, she wanted to hear about progress in preventing smoking in schools by both teachers and pupils.