Smoking is officially banned in schools in France, where the legal smoking age is 18, yet even underage high school students easily get away with the habit. One 15-year-old tells the Guardian he takes three smoke breaks a day on his school's playground, where he's encouraged to smoke and an ashtray is provided. It sounds like a stereotypical French scene—only it wasn't always this way. In fact, it's "one of the weirdest results" of the November terror attacks in Paris, reports Vice News. Officials feared crowds of students smoking outside schools would become easy targets for terrorists, so special measures under a state of emergency were used to encourage outdoor smoking areas on school grounds. "It's safer for us," says one student. But another says the move was a surprise.
"Teachers have spent so long telling us smoking is bad for us and here they are giving us a special area of the school courtyard to do it in. Wow!" she says, adding the change has probably helped some pupils smoke more often. A doctor—who notes 30 schools around Paris are allowing smoking on school grounds—fears it will also encourage others to take up the habit. Some 125,000 of France's current high school students will die from smoking over the next 30 years, he says, noting, "That's huge compared to terror attacks." The Ministry of Education says officials are "very committed to the fight against addiction and smoking," adding school principals have the final say on whether to allow smoking. The state of emergency is set to expire on May 26, though it's already been extended twice. (Read more France stories.)