DESPITE Department of Education's (DepEd) implementation against smoking in schools, authorities are still having a hard time to stop the vice in public schools.

DepEd Regional Director Josefina Tamondong said school authorities are finding it difficult to stop smoking in or around the vicinity of schools because of the presence of ambulant vendors.

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Tamondong even asked Police Regional Director Villamor Bumanglag to engage policemen to also take part in the drive for a healthier lifestyle and proper law enforcement for the youth.

Bumanglag said he is looking into possibilities of setting up police assistance centers near schools not only during the opening of schools but all throughout the year.

He added this intensified drive against vendors is also being done on establishments selling liquor near schools and churches nationwide.

Tamondong said a rehabilitation center for drug dependents should also be in the drawing board because many addicts have been discovered in high schools in Cordillera region.

Last year alone, during the random drug tests conducted nationwide in public high schools here, Tamondong said there were already three students who were tested positive for drug use.

"The test was done randomly with only 10 students subjected to tests per school. What more if we have [conducted] the tests on all students?" Tamondong added.

She added at the Baguio City National High School last year, guards caught a group of high school students possessing small quantities of marijuana.

When interrogated by school authorities, Tamondong said the students claimed to have been using the drug for months. Other admitted to being users for years now.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) acting Regional director Edgar Apalla said this news is alarming because marijuana use, particularly its chemical component tetrahydrocalabium, may cause memory loss.

Currently, the PDEA has already conducted more than 52 anti-drug operations all over the region mostly buy bust operations, which Apalla said is never enough considering that the Cordillera region is the biggest marijuana producer in the country. (JM Agreda)