Thursday 04 June 2020

No smoke without ire: schools face heavy fines for playground smoking

Smoking on the street is banned in other parts of the world already. Photo:

Smoking on school playgrounds will risk a €4,500 fine from next year – whether or not class is in session.

The Volkskrant reports on Thursday that junior health minister Paul Blokhuis is today expected to lay out the legal guidance on enforcing the country’s new ‘norm’ from August 2020.

Schools are expected to be regulated in the same way as bars, cafes and restaurants, and enforce the new rules at risk of a fine, the paper reports.

On Wednesday it was announced that all Premier League and top-division football clubs must also impose a smoking ban from the 2020/2021 season.

However Blokhuis told the Volkskrant that although schools would be expected to police the measure, the approach would also be practical. ‘Of course schools won’t have to hang around in the bushes of an evening to check that nobody is smoking…I hope that we don’t make a cent [in fines] because of this new law.’

He added that he hoped the current social acceptance for smoking would change rapidly: ‘In a few years, our children will look at us in wonder if we say that you used to be able to smoke on the school playground.’

Despite years of discussion about the subject, the Volkskrant says that a fifth of schools have not explicitly banned smoking on playgrounds, with the vast majority of vocational middle schools failing to do this.

But education experts have said that the policy could be impossible to enforce. Ton Heerts, chairman of the MBO Raad council for vocational middle schools told the Parool earlier this year that ‘before you know it, we’ll have smoking police walking around school playgrounds’.

Smoking among young people in the Netherlands is average for boys and relatively high for girls compared Europe and north America. Drug addiction organisation Jellinek reports that around 10% of children from 12 to 16 have smoked recently, rising to a quarter of 17 or 18 year olds – although some research indicates that there is a falling trend.

Blokhuis, a strong advocate for healthier lifestyles, has said that he wouldn’t mind if the price of cigarettes rose to €20 a packet.

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