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Terror fears could see French schools end smoking ban
High schoolers taking a smoke break. Photo: AFP

Terror fears could see French schools end smoking ban

The Local · 3 Feb 2016, 15:29

Published: 03 Feb 2016 15:29 GMT+01:00
Updated: 03 Feb 2016 15:29 GMT+01:00

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Michel Richard, from the SNPDEN school administrators union, thinks that groups of students hanging around out the front of a school would make an easy target for an armed terrorist.
And his fears are understandable given terrorists armed with Kalshnikovs specifically targeted people on the terraces of Parisian bars and cafes just a few months ago.  
Speaking on behalf of the union, Richard called for permission to allow school students in France to smoke in designated areas inside schools or the grounds, something that has been banned since 1991.
"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
He explained that after the November terror attacks in Paris, teaching unions were told that they should be wary about allowing students to gather in crowds, and should pay particular attention to the exteriors of the building. 
With this in mind, Richard had written to the French prime minister to request a lift on the smoking ban, even if only temporarily.
"If there was a shooting at a school, and masses of people were killed just because they were smoking out the front, we would be the first to blame - and all because we were just abiding by the laws," Richard said. 
He said that some school principals haven't even waited for permission, already allowing their pupils to smoke in the courtyards. 
A ban on smoking was officially 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.
Students caught smoking at school can face fines of up to €450, while schools can be slapped with fines of up to €750. 
Story continues below…
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.
France, meanwhile, has been under a national state of emergency since the November attacks, which saw 130 people killed. Critics, including UN human rights experts, say that the measures are "excessive and disproportionate" restrictions on key rights, with some fearing an open-ended state of emergency.
Despite the popular concern, a recent poll showed 70 percent of French people back maintaining the state of emergency.
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