By Kabir Chaudhary
France has been the centre of terror-related incidents last year and its citizens had witnessed everything from shootings, stabbing to bombings. After the November 13 attacks, the National Union of School Administrators decided that the smoking ban should be removed to protect the lives of the students. The reason is that teenagers are more at risk of loosing their lives as they assemble outside their schools for a smoke break.
Around 28% of the 66.6 million people smoke in France, half of the 28% are high school students, possibly hundreds or thousands of them smoke on a regular basis. As I see It, the SNPDEN’s (French school union) action to let its student smoke inside the school premises is totally justifiable. Yes, encouraging students to smoke indoors is the price they are willing to pay against any harms caused by terror attacks. Moreover, the risk of another terrorist attack is increased since the Islamic state called France as one of its ‘Principal Targets’. France has already suffered enough with the terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office and on the capital last November. This is a necessary step since students during break or recess gather outside in groups and become easy targets for the terrorists.
“We’ve been able to smoke inside for a few weeks now,” explains Anne, 18, who is in her final year of high school and smokes “two to three cigarettes a day”. She says it’s a good thing that students are now being encouraged to smoke in designated areas inside the school grounds. “Before, there were a lot of small groups crowded together [outside], and honestly, it was an easy target for an attack” reports VICE.
Parents trust the schools with lives of their children. The schools have safety responsibilities towards the students which they are fulfilling by taking this step. After all, being in a state of emergency, schools in every district or every city for that matter, cannot be guarded by the military all the time. French schools did not want to gamble with lives of their students.
What the government is doing about it?
Nothing. The lack of government support led the SNPDEN to take steps to control the situation. As far as the government is concerned, they think that lifting the ban won’t make any difference. Apparently, the health ministry has rejected the proposal made by the union and said, it would not loosen the ban as long as France is in a state of emergency. They also said that they are trying to reduce the number of smokers in the country and want to encourage French people to quit or stop smoking altogether. The government instead passed a law which prohibits the school directors to permit the students to smoke on school grounds. They would be fined between 135 to 750 Euros.
Nevertheless, many schools have already implemented the policy few days after the November attacks in Paris.
Last year France lost lots of people because of Islamic State’s terror attacks on the capital. The school union is anxious and afraid of an imminent attack, that is why they felt the need to apply such a policy in their institutions.