More than a quarter of NT schools allow staff to smoke in designated areas on school grounds.
According to the Heart Foundation, there is a policy which allows staff to vote for the measure at the start of each year.
Today major health bodies, including the Heart Foundation, have urged the NT Government to ban smoking on school grounds
As the Northern Territory election closes in, the Heart Foundation, and leading health organisations are calling on the incoming government to declare schools smoke-free in a bid to protect teachers and students from secondhand smoke.
Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by up to 30 per cent and can lead to serious long-term health issues, the health groups say.
Smoke-free environments de-normalise smoking and support people who are trying to quit.
In 2019, 54 NT schools allowed staff to smoke in designated areas, up from 32 in 2018, the foundation said.
Heart Foundation's NT Heart Health manager Sarah George said the increase was concerning and undermines teachers' ability to act as role models when it comes to smoking.
"Teachers have the ability to shape young people's responses and relationship with smoking and help students who smoke to quit. Having teachers smoke on school grounds can create conflicting messages for students," Ms George said.
"Instead of encouraging teachers to smoke with designated smoking areas, we should be supporting them to quit."
Nicotine is toxic for teenagers with developing brains, as they are more susceptible to both the addictiveness and harm of nicotine. Evidence shows young people get addicted to nicotine faster than adults. They also have stronger cravings, which makes it harder to quit.
"Now that many public and shared spaces in the NT are entirely smoke-free, it is no longer acceptable for schools to have these exempted smoking areas. We need to do everything we can to discourage kids from smoking, and that means addressing this policy," Ms George said.
"We're urging the incoming government to look at a phased approach when it comes to smoke- free schools."
The Foundation, with the support of Cancer Council NT, AMA NT, Healthy Living NT, Asthma Foundation NT and the Australian Council on Smoking & Health (ACOSH), is demanding the government take action on smoking and commit to a raft of measures including:
- Boosting investment in evidence-based tobacco control mass-media campaigns
- Supporting long-term stop-smoking programs targeting vulnerable communities
- Banning cigarette vending machines in all areas
- Banning "pop up" outlets selling tobacco
- Reducing tobacco company influence by banning donations
- Strengthening licensing by capping the number of tobacco retail licences and introducing a wholesaler licensing scheme.
Cancer Council NT CEO Tanya Izod says the NT has made positive strides in increasing the number of people who have quit smoking and who have never smoked.
"We need strong government action on tobacco control to protect our younger and more vulnerable populations from the harms of smoking and to convince them to never take it up."
The President of the Australian Medical Association NT, Associate Professor Robert Parker, said it's time for the government to step up its efforts on tobacco control and regulation.
"We want to see anti-smoking education campaigns reintroduced, tougher regulations governing donations from tobacco companies and stronger retail licensing laws. These are the things we know work to encourage people to quit smoking or to not take it up," Professor Parker said.
Anyone wanting advice on how to quit smoking should call the Quitline on 13 78 48.
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