PARIS (AP) — French high schools say students should be allowed to smoke on school grounds so that they don't become targets for extremists when they gather for cigarette breaks on the street outside.
A leading union of school administrators first made the request five days after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and 350 wounded. Following a refusal by the Health Ministry, the SNPDEN union last week renewed its call for a loosening of the school smoking ban as long as France remains under a state of emergency.
Around one-third of French teens between the ages of 15 and 19 smoke, according to government statistics.
In its letter dated Nov. 18, the SNPDEN union said "During each recess, in more than 2,000 schools in France, dozens of youth or even hundreds at the largest establishments form static and compact groups in a predictable way for 15 to 20 minutes."
The health ministry's rejection letter late last year included a reminder that France is currently trying to cut the number of smokers by 10 percent by 2019, and said "The state of emergency changes nothing" regarding anti-smoking laws.
School directors who are caught permitting students to smoke in the courtyard risk a fine of between 135 euros ($147) and 750 euros ($815).