HEARING HELD ON BILL BANNING SMOKING IN AMERICAN SAMOA SCHOOLS

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By Tauva Esera

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 19, 2002 – Samoa News)---The Director of the Department of Education, Dr. Sili Sataua, and a top official from LBJ Hospital appeared before the House Health Committee to share their views about the relevancy of a bill to ban smoking in schools.

Also participating in the hearing were five students from Faga'itua High School, accompanied by their principal and an instructor. The group represented the FHS student body, which had inspired Rep. Otomalesau to introduce the bill last Thursday.

During the hearing yesterday, chaired by Rep. Leo'o Nua Sipiliano, most Representatives of the House Committee showed their support of the bill.

The chairman asked the students why the bill is important.

One student replied that they want to have a smoke-free environment.

Another student said that because some students are addicted to smoking, they are always tempted to steal from their teachers, their parents and their own friends.

Rep. Limu F. C Limutau expressed concern about the growing number of students who smoke -- including elementary as well as high school students.

Muavaefa'atasi Ae Ae, Jr. questioned the students about the impact of being around people who smoke. He asked the students who in their families smoke cigarettes.

Of the five students testifying for the bill, three told the Committee that their mothers smoke.

The Ma'oputasi Faipule also pointed out that experts’ research revealed that those exposed to secondhand smoke are as negatively affected as the smokers themselves.

Dr. Sataua told the Faipules that he does not know of any teachers who smoke in classrooms, and if he heard of any, he would send them home.

Rep. Afalava also stated that if the bill is asking to ban smoking in schools, then they should also consider starting the ban within families.

The Faipule expressed the view that there is no use of restricting smoking in schools while the students are encouraged by family members who consume cigarettes at home.

Rep Limutau recalled that a similar bill had been introduced earlier by Rep. Mary Laugaia M. Taufete'e and was rejected by the House because it violated the rights of smokers.

He believed that the bill discussed yesterday needs further review for the same reason.

The bill's sponsor, Rep Otomalesau John Ah Sue, argued that smoking in schools affects the health of the students. He reminded the Representatives that the bill originated with the students themselves, who do not need to be encouraged to be smokers by their teachers, even if there are smokers in their families.

The Sua District Faipule urged that educating the students not to smoke can start at school.

Minor alterations will be made to the bill before the next hearing on it is held.

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For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

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