In Europe, Schools are Suffering Second-Hand Smoke from Outside

Image by Kruscha on Pixabay

As research progresses and we discover more about what improves our well-being, governments around the world introduce laws that help create healthier and happier societies. One such law that has come into force in most countries since the late 2000s is a ban on indoor smoking. Although some nations enforced it earlier and than others, in 2020, almost all European countries forbid smoking indoors.

This seemed to be a great solution to many issues. In some cases, it made smokers lose interest or cut down on their daily cigarettes. It also battled the effects of second-hand smoke. Even for non-smokers, inhaling tobacco from the environment has alarming consequences. It can cause cancer, along with respiratory diseases, and increases the risk for middle ear infections.

However, is banning smoking indoors the perfect solution for second-hand smoke problems? After running a study in 11 European countries and 220 schools, Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB) discovered that a lot more needs to be done. The study revealed that people were smoking in 4 out of 10 school entrances.

So, what does this imply? Naturally, for most smokers, one of the most convenient spots to light up a cigarette is doorways or building entrances. Here, they either don’t have to walk too far, get protected from bad weather conditions and may even get an opportunity to socialise. Studies have proved that the smoke from the entrance easily migrates indoors, and people inhale it as soon as they enter a building.

When the institution happens to be a school, however, the consequences are a lot more severe. Children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke. It can lead to health conditions, such as higher breathing rates or immature immune and respiratory systems.

Moreover, children and teenagers are more easily influenced by what they see others do. Thus, the increased visibility of people smoking contributes to children forming positive attitudes and beliefs towards this harmful activity. This is particularly emphasized when they see their teachers casually smoking around the school.

This study’s results prove that primary schools’ highest proportion of nicotine was in lower socioeconomic contexts and in countries with few tobacco control activities. In these cases, which were predominantly encountered in south-eastern European countries such as Italy or Bulgaria, up to 80% of people who stood around primary school entrances were smoking. Such scenes can create in children’s minds the impression that smoking is perfectly normal and desirable behaviour.

Fortunately, the prevalence of the nicotine smell around schools has caught the attention of powerful organizations, such as the WHO European Region. In response, they prepared a clear set of action steps meant to discourage tobacco use, focusing on child protection by 2025. Other countries have already been more vigilant. In New York, people cannot smoke within 100 ft of any doorway, window, or air-intake duct. Similar laws apply in Canada, Australia, South Wales, and other cities in the United States. The perimeter ban, however, differs depending on each government.

Hopefully, after seeing these positive examples from our West world counterparts, it is not too much wishful thinking to believe that soon Europe will also eradicate second-hand smoke exposure by the institution entrances.

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