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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 28, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Students smoking is a major problem in Papua New Guinea schools, according to the Department of Education. And teachers who smoke have been blamed for sending the wrong message.

Principal guidance officer Aaron Hayes says previous attempts to combat student smoking through punishment have failed. There are strong indications smoking in schools is on the rise, he said.

The Department of Education said one of the main difficulties in combating the student smoking problem is the fact that many teachers smoke.

An Education Department circular on student behavior management states: "Many schools devote a lot of staff time and resources to catching and punishing student smokers. Yet in many of the same schools, students see their teachers openly smoking in staff rooms, offices and even in classrooms. This sends a very hypocritical message to students.

"School administrations should give consideration to declaring all school buildings ‘smoke free,’ while designating a staff smoking area somewhere well out of sight of students.

"Tobacco should not be available for sale anywhere on school grounds and street markets outside school gates should be out of bounds for students if tobacco is on sale."

Anecdotal feedback from schools, collected by the Department of Education, indicated that up to one-third of upper primary and high school students are smokers.

Many of these are "pulling tobacco" after school, and during lunch breaks. Some who are strongly addicted are also skipping classes to smoke.

Education authorities are hoping that a current project establishing school counselors in all provinces will provide an effective conduit for awareness programs.

School counselors will conduct preventive activities in schools aimed at reducing the number of students taking up smoking. They will provide confidential support counseling for students who want to give up smoking.

School counselors may also be given the task of coordinating a major quit campaign for teachers.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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