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'Smoking a bigger danger to French pupils than terrorism'

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Photo: AFP
13:27 CEST+02:00
A French health expert has launched legal proceedings against a school for allowing children to smoke on school grounds, on the premise it is safer than outside the gates because of the terror threat.
France's national state of emergency has put a tough choice in front of headmasters across the country. 
 
Should pupils continue to be forced outside school grounds to smoke cigarettes - leaving them as potential terror targets on the streets - or should they be allowed to smoke on school grounds, even though it's against the law and not forgetting it's bad for their health.
 
A lung specialist has taken action on the matter, lodging an official complaint against the Saint-Exupery high school in Lyon for allowing pupils to smoke on school grounds.
 
"Supposedly it's because of the state of emergency," specialist Corinne Depagne told the RTL channel on Tuesday. 
 
"It keeps our children from being killed outside high schools and instead allows them to be killed inside. It's unbelievable," she said. 
 
In February, unions called for pupils to be allowed back in the courtyard to smoke, and many schools have already given the go ahead.
 
Michel Richard from the SNPDEN school administrators union was among those calling for the law to be ignored. 
 
"We are always going to fight against smoking, but when it comes to the difference between a Kalashnikov and a cigarette, the risk just isn't the same," Richard told Le Figaro newspaper last month. 
 
The union has also looked into the possibility of introducing "smoking areas" inside the school grounds, reported Le Parisien
 
It's no surprise that the issue is divisive, with smoking in public a hot potato in France for years.
 
Officially, a smoking ban was rolled out in early 2007, which saw a prohibition in all workplaces, hospitals, schools and shops, and which was rolled out to bars, restaurants and cafes the year after. The move was part of the French government's response to a worrying increase in cigarette consumption.

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Students caught smoking at school can face fines of up to €450, while schools can be slapped with fines of up to €750. 
 
And smoking is on the rise among teenagers according to a 2015 report from the French Observatory for Drugs and Addiction (OFDT), which found that 33 percent of boys aged 17 smoke daily - up from 32.7 percent in 2011.
 
Girls aged 17 saw a larger increase, with 31.9 percent smoking daily compared to 30.2 percent in the same study three years earlier.

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