Roseville Secondary School pupils in Umzinto, KwaZulu-Natal, have refused to attend classes because they are demanding a designated smoking area on school grounds, which the provincial education department has denounced.
On Thursday, provincial education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa told News24 if their demands were to be met it would be a world first.
"We are not aware of any other country in the world that would even consider such a request.
"Our attitude to smoking is that it cannot add anything to the health [of pupils] or the quality of learning. It will lead to a total breakdown of discipline at the school, let alone the impact on the pupils," Mthethwa said.
TimesLive reported the pupils had "demanded a smoke break between 08:00 and 09:00 at a designated area on school grounds".
The publication said they had refused to attend classes last week and their next course of action was a protest.
The legal smoking age in South Africa was 18, Health24 previously reported.
In a Government Gazette notice on the Draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Systems Bill, which was released for public comment last year, then-health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi noted the bill was "to provide control over smoking … to prohibit the sale of tobacco products and electronic delivery systems to and by persons under the age of 18 years".
Motsoaledi’s proposed bill would also give the health minister powers to prohibit smoking in any outdoor public space or workplace "if they believe it would be in the public interest".
The former minister previously expressed his disdain for the tobacco industry, saying it had only caused "mayhem".
- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter