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MOE 'suggests' principals be non-smokers

The MOE had asked local officials to include smoking habit as one of the standards for principal selection in primary and secondary-level schools. -China Post/ANN

Tue, Nov 08, 2011
The China Post/Asia News Network

Education Minister yesterday denied that the ministry is barring smokers from serving as school principals, saying that it is only making a suggestion to local education authorities so that principals can better serve as role models in promoting a smoke-free campus.

According to the Chinese-language United Daily News report yesterday, in an official letter sent to local education bureaus this May, the Ministry of Education (MOE) had asked local officials to include smoking habit as one of the standards for principal selection in primary- and secondary-level schools.

Following the MOE's order, the Department of Education in the eastern county of Hualien promptly made it a rule that those principal candidates who consider themselves heavy smokers could not make the application to become principals, the report said.

The MOE's order has drawn criticism from the Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation Federation Union, which called the move discrimination and a serious violation of human rights, the report said.

In response, Education Minister Wu Chin-ji yesterday denied that the MOE is pushing for the new rule, adding that the ministry was only making suggestion instead of a mandatory regulation.

"It is a personal choice whether one decides to smoke or not and the MOE did not bar smokers from becoming school principals," he said when asked by several lawmakers of the latest policy yesterday during a legislative session.

The MOE's official documents sent to local education bureaus were also meant to serve as a reminder following the passage of the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act.

"We only asked local education authorities to gradually promote a smoke-free campus for the health of school faculty and students," Wu noted.

Wu, however, hopes teachers can ultimately quit the bad habit since it has been scientifically proven that smoking can lead to lung cancer.

Also, statistics show approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco within the country, he added.

Support and opposition

The ministry's latest anti-smoking promotion caused a stir of opposing opinions within the country.

The John Tung Foundation, a pioneer in anti-smoking efforts in Taiwan, has voiced strong support of the MOE's move.

"How can a principal who is a heavy-smoker ... serve as a model when asking students not to smoke," said Lin Ching-li, chief of the foundation's tobacco control division.

However, several educational groups, including the National Alliance of Parents Organization, the National Teachers' Association, and the National Secondary and Elementary School Principals Association, all expressed disapproval over the MOE's latest effort.

Calling the ministry's move inappropriate, they jointly asked the MOE to respect the personal choices of smokers.

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