Each of Barnsley’s 80 primary schools should become a ‘smoke free zone’ within the space of a few weeks as the council seeks to build on its recent successes in slashing tobacco use in the town and protecting the emerging generation from taking up the habit.
All primary schools will be provided with signs, letters to send to parents and ‘tool kits’ to help staff to introduce the smoke free principles around their schools and those who use them.
The smoke free policy is entirely voluntary and relies on the good will of those who use the area to make the scheme work but where they have been introduced around play areas and in the town centre they have been a resounding success, with smokers respecting the ruling.
Now the aim is to achieve the same results at primary schools, with the aim of bringing immediate health benefits by removing smoke from around schools’ perimeters as parents drop off their children, as well as promoting the help available for those who want to quit.
Longer term, the objective is to divert children from the prospect of smoking themselves by making the habit invisible to them as they mature, with the council hoping to reap the rewards of its endeavours by 2025, though earlier this year new figures emerged which showed a dramatic reduction in smoking levels among adults.
Senior health improvement officer at the council, Kaye Mann, has told councillors: “This is the third project within Smoke Free Barnsley, we did smoke free play parks and smoke free town centre zones and now we are into schools.
“It is about getting schools to go smoke free, the whole school approach. We want the area around school gates to be smoke free and staff to be able to refer people to stop smoking services.
“We want parents to understand it is smoke free, we want to do everything we can to get people to quit and for kids to not take up smoking.
“The main aim is to make smoking invisible to children.”
The scheme has been devised with the aim of making it as simple as possible for schools to introduce, so staff are not diverted from the main objective of educating pupils.
“I don’t want children to have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get into school,” she said.
“If we make smoking invisible, they don’t see it, it isn’t the norm and they will be less likely to take it up,” she said.
Among the packs being delivered to schools are two signs intended to go up at entrances, to remind parents and visitors of the policy.
“The minimum we would like them to do is put the signs up, send letters to parents and share the tool kits with staff, but we would like them to do more than that,” she said.