World

A very French idea to fight terrorism: Allow high schoolers to smoke

Washington: The terror threat in France is real. Just months after militants affiliated with Islamic State wreaked carnage in the heart of Paris, French authorities claimed to have arrested five people linked to the jihadist group. The suspects had reportedly bought bus tickets to journey to Syria and also had plans to attack a series of nightclubs in the city of Lyon.

French high school students wait in front of Lycee Victor Hugo in Paris on Tuesday.
French high school students wait in front of Lycee Victor Hugo in Paris on Tuesday. Photo: AP

There are widespread concerns about radical elements infiltrating France's borders as well as the radicalisation of France's own Muslim youth, some of whom chafe against a society where they feel marginalised and alienated.

Not long after the bloody November 13 attacks in Paris, a union of French school administrators proposed to the government that it loosen a smoking ban in high schools as long as the country was under a state of emergency. The implication is that students who smoke outside in the street were more vulnerable to being recruited by jihadists. About a third of French teens between ages 15 and 19 smoke, according to government data.

A poster produced by French authorities to help parents spot youth radicalisation.
A poster produced by French authorities to help parents spot youth radicalisation. Photo: Supplied

"During each recess, in more than 2000 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," advised a letter from the school union dated November 18, according to the Associated Press.

The French government apparently rejected this proposal, insisting that even the threat of radicalisation would not dent its efforts to curb smoking levels in the country.

This is hardly the first time French authorities have floated somewhat questionable methods to counter jihadism.

A year ago, the French government issued a poster replete with rather cheesy icons that purported to present a checklist of the telltale signs of radicalisation. These include getting into fights with friends, falling out with one's parents and changing one's eating habits or – judging from the icon – not eating baguettes.

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