SECONDARY teachers’ union Oelmek is asking the education ministry to recall its announcement on the total ban of smoking in schools and called for the creation of smoking rooms for teachers.
The education ministry sent a circular to schools in April reminding teachers that smoking is banned from all school areas, internal and external, citing the legislation but also pedagogical reasons.
All those teachers who do not abide, the circular said, will be reprimanded and in the case of serial offenders, the ministry’s rules also provide for interruption of their pay increments by up to six months.
In his letter to the minister, Costas Kadis, the head of Oelmek Demetris Taliadoros is asking for the recall of the circular in question including the provision on the sanctions non-abiding teachers are subject to.
“We find the provision in question unacceptable and with which we believe the relations between educators will be upset, but mainly it will cause conditions of unnecessary friction between parents and students and teachers,” the letter to the minister said.
Oelmek, the letter said, does not disagree with banning smoking in the yard and within school grounds, but is asking for the designation of smoking rooms, “as per the ruling of the attorney general”.
The union also said that there is an “intense problem” in schools as many pupils smoke, and proposes the launch of a campaign to “shape anti-smoking awareness” within the student population.
The ministry in its circular had said that the total ban on smoking in schools is “the most substantial prevention measure”.
According to existing legislation, smoking is prohibited in all workplaces and public buildings, including schools and hospitals excluding open-air spaces.
Even though the legal services excluded school yards from smoking bans in a 2012 ruling, the circular said, the ministry still has the right to impose a total ban for educational purposes while violation of its rules constitutes a disciplinary offence.
“Furthermore, based on the existing legislation, it is not allowed to create smoking rooms in places where smoking is banned like schools,” it said.
Consequently, it said, teachers or other adults smoking indoors in schools is a criminal offense based on the existing legislation, while teachers smoking in outdoor school premises violate the pedagogical role of the school and is a disciplinary offence.
The total ban on smoking in schools will prepare the ground for shaping a smoke-free culture, it said.
The new bill on smoking which is currently under discussion by the House health committee, stipulates that smoking will be prohibited in all workplaces, hospitals and schools, including open spaces. The bill aims to replace the existing law on smoking controls and to align national legislation with the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive.
According to the bill, electronic cigarettes, herbal smoking products and water pipes (hookah), will also be prohibited.