French pressed: Nov. 20 edition
Smoking and the use of drugs may be a sensitive topic to talk about in many countries, but smoking and using drugs are not rare among students – whether they are American or French.
From a foreign point of view, smoking does not seem to be very common among Americans, or at least in Little Rock. Whenever I go downtown or other places in Little Rock, I barely see people smoking. Needless to say, I do not see anyone smoking at the university because UALR is a smoke-free campus.
Smoking is very popular in France, especially among the young generation. Almost everyone in France has tried smoking, and it is not uncommon to see smokers in the streets since smoking is only banned in public places such as restaurants and bars.
I believe smoking has taken an important place in French culture, and I think it would be difficult for it to be banned, especially in universities. As you may have figured it out, smoking is allowed at most French universities. It is only banned in high schools and middle schools – yes kids as young as 13-years-old are smoking.
At the university of Orléans, students and faculty are allowed to smoke outside the campus buildings. I think that university is not a smoke-free campus mainly because it would be difficult for the administration to ban smoking since the university is located in a natural environment; it is not surrounded by fences like UALR.
However, there are some restrictions students have to follow. For instance, they are not allowed to smoke inside in order to respect non-smokers. If they want to smoke, they can go outside the buildings; it does not matter if they are two feet away from the entrance or or 100 feet away as long as they are outside. At my home university, students usually go next to the entrances to smoke, and they go in groups. It is not very common for students to go smoke by themselves as smoking is seen as a way of socialization by many. Indeed, it is not rare to see students talking after having only exchanged a cigarette.
When I was in college in France, my friends and I used to go smoking during the breaks and we meet new students almost every time. It was even more common at my high school. I think it is fair to say that almost half of the high school students were smoking, so whenever there was a break, a huge crowd of student was formed in front of the gates. It may seem surprising for an outsider, but it is part of the French culture among the young generation. Students were talking to other students they had never met before, so you could make a friend in this 10-minute break by simply lending someone a lighter or giving someone a cigarette.
However, I was not studying in a very good neighborhood – in high school or college – and cigarettes were not the only thing students smoked. I have never been asked if I wanted drugs but one of my friends was when he was in college. He was walking in the street near campus during the day, and a young boy asked him if he wanted drugs. My friend said no and left. Everyone in the neighborhood is aware that there are drugs but it has gotten better during the past years.
Indeed, the university has a counseling office as well as health services where students can go get information on the dangers of smoking and drugs, and on how to stop smoking. I do not know if it is very effective though because smoking has gradually become an inherent part of French culture and society – just like the Eiffel Tower, eating snails and high fashion. People are aware of the danger of smoking but this does not seem to make them stop, and neither does the high price of a pack of cigarettes.
I think it is a good thing that UALR is a smoke-free campus and I think French universities should try to adopt the policy. If you have never smoked, the best thing to do is to avoid starting; if you do smoke, there is help to stop.
A bientôt pour de nouvelles aventures! (See you later for other adventures!)