[EDITORIALS]Enlist in a war on smokingThe Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has declared war on smoking, designating all elementary, middle and high schools as no-smoking areas from June on and strengthening education on the hazards of smoking. According to their plan, not only the school edifice, but the entire school perimeter will be designated as a no-smoking zone to make the schools "smoke-free."
Embarrassingly, 68.2 percent of South Korean male adults smoke, the highest figure in the world. According to the Commission on Youth Protection, the rate of male high school smokers dropped to 27.6 percent last year from 35.3 percent in 1997. But smoking by middle school students rose from 3.9 percent to 7.4 percent and the rate for female high school students rose from 8.1 percent to 10.7 percent. Another surprising development is that 12.3 percent of elementary school boys and 3. 4 percent of elementary school girls were found to be smoking last year. Although smoking by high school boys has declined, it still ranks highest among Asian nations. For high school girls, the rate compares to Japan's 1.5 percent, China's 5 percent and Singapore's 0.2 percent. These statistics make the office's plans the more welcome.
What is eye-catching is that the Education Office has asked both teachers and students to enlist in the war against smoking. Teachers would have more success in persuading students to quit smoking if they also stopped. Should a teacher search the bathrooms for smoker students while clutching a butt, it would only trigger rebelliousness among students. One high school in South Chungcheong province said that the rate of student smoking in the school dropped significantly after teachers joined the anti-smoking campaign with students.
The hazards of smoking are well known and manifold. According to a survey by the National Statistical Office of causes of death in 2000, cancer ranked as number one. Lung cancer took 70 percent of all cancer deaths. Studies have shown that chronic smokers have a 7.8 times higher probability of getting heart sickness. Anti-smoking campaigns of youth should not be a one-time campaign. To achieve the expected results, all elementary, middle and high schools in the nation should participate in the movement.