Kids blow smoke at Olympic dream

Burning ambition: Torch aims to light sporting fire.

Burning ambition: Torch aims to light sporting fire.

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SHEFFIELD is proud of its sporting events and doubtless the Olympic torch will receive more than a warm welcome when it lights up our streets in June.

With the announcement of the route and torchbearers on Monday, it was great to see 18-year-old Joshua McGill from Chapeltown on the list. Joshua was chosen after delivering healthy living talks to schools and youth groups after watching two of his grandparents die from smoking-related cancer within a year.

Joshua sums up what this year’s Olympics is all about.

Lord Coe and his marketeers are at pains to point out that this isn’t just a multi-billion pound, star-studded moneyspinner for London.

The Olympics aims to leave a legacy for our children – inspiring them to do more sport and fundamentally live more healthily.

Schools all over Sheffield have no doubt already planned hundreds of Olympic-themed events, with this year’s sports days – love them or hate them – showcasing plenty of wannabe Jessicas.

It’s therefore with great annoyance that some schools, my local one being a prime example, seem to be giving athletes of the future a very mixed message about healthy living.

Every day, at morning break and lunchtime, pupils at High Storrs school stand brazenly smoking outside the gates. Just the other day my partner counted no fewer than 38 young teenagers blowing stinking tobacco fumes at 11am.

Not only were younger pupils, pre-schoolers in buggies and infant children from the school opposite in full sight of this disgusting spectacle, but so were the teachers. Did anyone do anything to stop them? No. Did it stop after we complained to the school? No.

Apparently schools can’t do anything about it because the children are outside the school grounds. It seems they are therefore free to do whatever they wish to their lungs.

I’m a little puzzled then, why several major companies and public bodies in Sheffield can ban fag breaks while our children are allowed to merrily skip out for a wheeze between lessons - and flick a metaphorical dog end at everyone in authority.

Last year the NHS spent millions on initiatives to stop school kids taking up this life-threatening habit. And on Wednesday Chancellor George Osborne whacked a huge 37p on the price of 20, taking a packet up to £7.50.

In so doing he said: “Smoking remains the biggest cause of preventable illness in this country. There is strong evidence that increasing the price of cigarettes deters people from smoking.”

At present almost 160,000 children aged 11 to 15 start smoking every year, according to Cancer Research UK. And eight out of 10 people start smoking before they are 19.

If smoking’s all right with educators, why didn’t High Storrs, which recently underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment, install a shelter for its pupils?

The issue highlights the muddled thinking around teachers’ responsibilities and pupils’ rights and it needs tackling long before the Olympic torch is carried down Ecclesall Road.

At the very least High Storrs could invite Joshua to give one of his talks about dying from tobacco-induced cancer before sports day.

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