The recent uproar over the Brookline High School smoking policy has taken the focus away from the actual issue- nicotine addiction in teens. Whether or not the school provides students a smoking area, no one wants to see them smoke in the first place.
For teens and adults alike, initially smoking is a personal choice, but there is a point where, over time, addiction develops and choice plays little to no role.
The overall question then becomes how can teens dealing with nicotine addiction, once it reaches that stage, be helped? Whose responsibility is it to step in? How much support is needed?
BHS recognizes the core issue and has a substance abuse program in place with two employees focused solely on nicotine addictions. Staff regularly visit the smoking area to let students know of available resources to help them quit smoking. In fact, the school cites some success with this program in supporting teens struggling to be smoke free.
It is also important to understand that the school’s culture as a whole, does not encourage smoking. Sources within BHS have confirmed that smoking really is confined to the assigned area off campus. Students are not sneaking a smoke on school grounds. Now, this may partly be due to the smoking policy, but the effect of anti-smoking peer pressure should not be discounted.
Massachusetts Intercollegiate Athletic Association, additionally, has rules for students participating in school sports. Any BHS student caught smoking is suspended a minimum of 3 games for their first offense and half a season for their second offense.
This is all reason to be hopeful, but the reality is that BHS students have lives that extend beyond school grounds. BHS is taking steps to help teens combat nicotine addiction, but should this responsibility lie solely with the school? Where does the responsibility of the parents and the community come into play?
It’s given that we want our children to be healthy. It’s given that smoking is addictive. It’s time to turn the discussion from whether or not BHS should have assigned area for student smoking to the bigger issue- what can we, as a community, do to help teens get and stay smoke-free?
by Emily Bravman