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The school smoking ban policy has been recommended and even implemented in various institutions but many questions are still being raised about its significance and how effective it is to the targeted population. This study seeks to find out whether it is necessary to have smoking ban policy in schools and whether it has an effect on the overall life of the students. The study also aims at finding out how effective smoking ban policy can be and the appropriate strategy that should be applied to make it effective. In order to find out these the study will involve collection of data both from primary and secondary sources which will then be verified, analyzed, and a report prepared. The outcome of this research will be important to the implementers of smoking ban in schools as it will help them maximize the benefits associated with such a policy.
The implementation of tobacco-free environments in school is now a common trend in most parts of the world and this follows a recommendation by the Center for Disease Control (CDC, 1994). This recommendation was one of the tools that was aimed at controlling smoking among the youths thus it was a strategy that targeted the youths and included the prohibition of smoking within the school premises or property including at events that involved schools even when taking place away from the school (CDC, 1994). It not only restricted students but also school personnel and visitors were included in this bracket provided they were within the restricted zones and events. This policy has however been defined differently from one region to another, either way the above elements must be addressed and included in the definition (Small et al, 2001).
It is a common practice that before any policy is recommended or implemented substantial evidence must be provided to show that it is really significant and will meet the intended goals not forgetting to mention the effects that it may have on the targeted group and the community at large. Such issues have always led to many questions being asked most of which can only be answered through research or related studies. The smoking ban is one of such issues and has always faced a number of criticisms and support in almost equal proportion since it is an issue that touches the daily lives of many. The fact people are free to smoke anywhere and at anytime greatly affects the life of non-smokers negatively while is enjoyed by smokers; conversely, smoking restrictions is good news to non-smokers but bad news to smokers thus such policies need appropriate and in-depth analysis before they are implemented.
The main aim of this research will be to find out the relationship between the smoking ban and the academic performance of students and to help in this the following question will be answered; is school smoking bans helpful or harmful to students? This will then lead to other sub-questions which include; is there a relationship between smoking bans and smoking prevalence among students? Does school smoking bans relate to the academic achievement of students? What is the best strategy to ban smoking in schools? Does the socioeconomic status of the students have an effect on the outcome of smoking ban policy?
Currently there are many cases of school unrests caused by students through strikes which lead to disruption of activities and even destruction of property. Such actions have more often been associated to drug and substance use among students which include smoking, drinking and other modes of administering drugs. This has also led to the drastic reduction on performance levels of students. Since all these are undesirable happenings there has been constant search on the possible and most effective means of controlling and at best totally bringing to an end the use of drugs in schools and all educational institutions. Smoking ban in schools has been one of the recommendations that have been put forward but has faced several challenges with a lot of questions being raised on the effectiveness of such a move, this has really affected the implementation of this smoking ban policy. It is therefore very necessary that the arising questions be answered and put clearly to be understood so as to facilitate its implementation and the best way to find these answers is through research.
Given that this study will not only find out the importance of smoking ban on schools but also try to solve the puzzle on the effectiveness of such bans, it will be a very significant tool to the implementers of such policies. Through the use of the results of this research schools will be able to identify whether it is worth introducing such a policy, where they have not been, or maintaining the policy, in a case where they exist. At the same time, the concerned implementers will identify the right strategies to be used to enforce smoking ban policy in schools. Considering these benefits, it is obvious that this research will be significant to the community at large since it addresses an issue that is of great concern among the communities in all territories. Since it touches on the youth who are always looked upon for future prosperity of any nation, the significance will ultimately be felt all through the nation and even beyond borders.
Many youths get initiated into smoking through many ways and by different individuals, this is a habit that they continue with and never plan to quit almost throughout their lives and many factors have been pointed out to cause this (Abernathy et al, 2002; Conrad et al, 1992). Even though school smoking ban is the universal recommendation towards stopping this habit, there is no tangible evidence that this policy when implemented in isolation leads to a decrease in the prevalence of smoking among students and the youth (Moore et al, 2006; Darling et al, 2006; Kumar et al, 2005; Pentz et al, 1989). Current studies have suggested a number of shortcomings related to the implementation of school smoking ban such as ineffectiveness and the fact that such rules may be unkind. Smoking and the related health behaviors are influenced by such factors as socioeconomic status, education, and the general social environment (Evans et al, 1994; Harris et al, 2009; Lowry et al, 1996). It has been argued that there are students who find themselves initiated into smoking through means beyond their control, therefore, such students may be victims of the unintended burden brought by school smoking policy (Martin et al, 2000).
Records recently presented indicate that there has been a reduction in smoking in developed countries over the past decade, the countries that have had this notable change include Canada, Australia, the United States, and a number of countries within Europe (CDC, 2003; van der Wilk & Jansen, 2005). This reduction is however not due to the school smoking ban but is attributed to the extensive control strategies that have been applied in these countries which include laws on taxation and location of smoking, and social marketing. The fact that many schools have implemented the school smoking ban policy since its introduction by the Center for Disease Control, regardless of whether it is effective or not, has shown that many schools recognize the adverse effects of smoking and are ready to work with the health sector in creating a society which is 'smoke-free'.
This research aims at adopting a population health framework of adolescent smoking as this is viewed to be the perfect population given the objective of the research. With reference to the work of Leatherdale and others (2005), a theory was formulated stating that there is a direct connection between the smoking of youth within the school premises and the subsequent smoking of other students. This theory echoes the sentiments expressed by the "contagion model of adolescent substance use" which indicate that substance use among adolescents is highly caused by one-on-one interaction and also those expressed by other studies.
This research intends to apply the multi-level analytical analysis techniques to assist in testing for the impact that smoking ban has on smoking instigation, these techniques will be used to examine both school-level and individual factors concurrently. The research will also focus on alienation and school drop-out through the use of academic performance which will act as an alternative indicator of the former and as a forerunner to the latter leading to a hypothesis relating the academic performance and existence of rules against smoking in schools. The hypothesis is that the academic performance of students in schools having rules on smoking or smoking bans will be better compared the academic performance of the students in schools that do not have such rules or policies. This also includes awareness of the students in such schools of the existence of such rules or policies. It will also be necessary to formulate multi-level models having in mind the guidelines given by Aveyard et al (2004) which advise on the application of individual -level features over-controlling. In these guidelines they argue that it is not in order to control for individual level characteristics in a case where the multi-level studies are school-based this is because such features are linked both to the individual and the school environment.
The research intends to base on students in different regions, such as different provinces, and use a sample design which is single-stage. In this sample design classes are randomly selected and the stratification is done according to grade and school district and tries to incorporate all students who are present on the day of the study. Before carrying out the research though, it will be important to get consent from the parents of such students which follow the requirements put forward by the respective heath and education departments. In order to collect adequate information, the study will use questionnaires comprising several items; these items will seek to find information regarding school rules, smoking and substance use, mental health, and social and demographic characteristics. To ensure that the information collected will be reliable and valid, a very wide population of students will be covered and the respondents will be accorded anonymity unless otherwise they do not need it. The information will also be compared to the available data from similar surveys to check for consistency especially where estimates are involved.
The study may however face limitations which may include inability to collect information about school smoking policy from the administrators thus the information provided by the students will be essential as limited as they may seem.
The primary individual level variable that would be considered is the existence of rules banning smoking according to the awareness of the student, this will be found out by posing a question that directly asks this and giving the student an option of giving a straightforward answer to the question. The other variables that will be taken into consideration at the individual level during the research will be grade, gender, residence, socioeconomic status of the family, and highest level of education of one of the parents, preferably the mother, which is also a socioeconomic level indicator. All these variables are viewed to have a direct effect on the student as an individual thus are important to consider (Fagan et al, 2005).
There are variables that will be considered at school-level and these will be generated from the responses or data collected from the individual variables. The first variable in this case is the prevalence of rules or policy banning smoking in schools and this will be deduced from the responses given by the students as individuals and will indicate the average percentage of schools that have such rules.
This research is expected to take three weeks divided into three sections that are consecutive and each lasting a week. The sections will be the pre-study week, the intervention week, and the post-study week in that order. The pre-study week will be utilized by observing the smoking behaviors of individuals in all the targeted groups and their interaction with students, the intervention week will be for collecting the needed information through the means that have been identified, and the post-study week will be for analyzing the data collected and coming up with a report.
Smoking is a habit that has been embraced by many and more are still joining the league of smokers thus it is an issue that is very sensitive to handle. Apart from having a social effect on individuals, it also touches on the economy since the business of cigarettes generates high level of revenue and also provides employment to a good number of individuals. Recommending and implementing any policy that seems to discourage of hinder the sale and use of cigarettes always draws mixed reactions from the general population; school smoking ban is one such policy. It is thus the consideration of the study not to ignore such possible reactions and will avoid being personal on any issue throughout the research process. The study will stick to the issues that it targets without involving on other issues that are not connected in any way to the study.
Those supporting smoking-free school policies argue that students are directly affected by the smoking of those individuals who they view as their role models in the community and these include not only adults but also fellow youths who are always around them. Their attitudes and development of interest are based on the manner in which people around them handle smoking and how they talk about it and most of the times they will tend to emulate them. There is experimental evidence that have been put forward with regard to this which indicates that most students tend to imitate other youths who smoke within school property sooner or later. With regard to this then it is right to state that schools having smoking bans should register low smoking rates among the students both within and outside school.
Given that it is not easy to tell exactly what percentage of success of non-smoking amount students is attributed to smoking bans, there have been mixed evidence with regard to the effectiveness of smoking bans. In order to end this argument then there should be a way of proving that smoking bans have actually discouraged the youths from smoking or involving in smoking related activities. A number of studies have been carried out to find this and a few have come out with the conclusion that there is a relationship between smoking bans and reduced smoking among students and further stressing that this greatly relied on the manner in which such a policy is enforced. Conversely, other studies did not successfully demonstrate the link that exists between smoking prevalence in schools and smoking ban policy in schools. The differences that appear in these are studies are due to several factors such as the variations in the strategies of implementing and enforcing the policy, the intention behind such policy, and the extent of coverage in terms of population and length of time. In addition to these it has been found that there are great variations in the sanctions imposed on violators and the level of their enforcement, this is evident both within and outside a single authority. The following hypotheses were thus put forward:
All the students who said that their schools had not adopted the school smoking ban policies, or those who were not aware of the existence of such policies would be highly exposed to the risk of smoking initiation when compared to their fellows who were in schools where the policy was embraced and the students were aware of its existence notwithstanding the rates of smoking.
Students who were in schools with rules on smoking would appreciate the significance of having protective mechanisms on smoking initiation as compared to students from schools that do not have such rules. This implies that smoking ban would impact positively on the students in terms of attitude which would translate to reduced smoking rates among the youth.
The socioeconomic status of the students would be of great influence to the results without considering the availability of the smoking ban policy in schools.