Create a Tobacco- and Vape-Free School
Tobacco-free, including vape-free, schools provide decreased exposure to secondhand smoke, an opportunity for positive role modeling and protection from youth developing an addiction to nicotine by preventing youth tobacco use.1 Thanks to the Louisiana Tobacco-Free Schools Act, ACT No. 351, all Louisiana schools are tobacco-free, including smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
Review and Strengthen Your School’s Tobacco Policy
Well-Ahead provides several resources to help your school implement a tobacco-free policy and ensure it complies with Louisiana law. A tobacco-free policy outlines what is and is not allowed on school property and provides a tool for enforcement with students, employees and visitors. The other guidelines in the policy include cessation support for both students and staff, as well as the involvement of parents or families in preventing youth tobacco use. Comprehensive tobacco-free school policies can also help prevent the use of other drugs and protect school property by avoiding damage from secondhand smoke and cigarette butt fires.
Policy Adoption Timeline
Implementing or strengthening a tobacco-free policy can be a long but rewarding process. The steps and timeline for adopting a new policy can look different for every school, but the approaches remain the same. Generally, the best time to start adopting a new policy is in the fall, with the goal of policy implementation during the spring semester.
Educate and Connect
- Familiarize yourself with information about tobacco and vape products and why they are a concern on your school’s campus.
- Educate your school’s administrators and staff about e-cigarettes and vapor products. Make them aware of your goal to implement or strengthen the school’s tobacco-free policy.
- Use the School Tobacco-Free Policy Checklist to evaluate your school’s current policy and identify how it could be strengthened.
- Establish or connect with a youth engagement group.
Recommend a Change
- Present to the school board and administrators about health concerns around vaping, prevalence among youth and best practices for addressing tobacco use in schools.
- Highlight that a comprehensive tobacco-free policy is an effective way to prevent youth tobacco use and initiation.
Implement the Policy
- If the school board passes the proposed policy changes, begin working with administration to develop a communication, implementation and enforcement plan. To get started, use the Sample E-Cigarette Advisory Letter for Parents, Sample Tobacco Policy Staff Memo and Sample Tobacco Policy Parent Letter.
- Gather and share signage, prevention and cessation resources throughout your school once the new policy begins. Well-Ahead Louisiana provides tobacco-free school signage to schools across the state. To request free signs, email: email@example.com.
- You can also use The Real Cost Posters developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to educate teens on the harmful chemicals in vapes. The FDA conducted extensive research to create effective messaging and outreach strategies for youth tobacco prevention. These posters may seem shocking, yet research shows their messages resonate with teens.
- Celebrate your school’s new tobacco- and vape-free campus!
Connect with Us for Free Signage
Email your request for tobacco-free and smoke-free signage for your school!
Policy Compliance and Enforcement
School policies regulating the use and possession of commercial tobacco products, including electronic delivery devices, often contain punitive measures for student violations.2 The use of penalizing and punitive disciplinary approaches in response to using or possessing tobacco or vapor products often intensifies health inequities and fails to address the mental, emotional and behavioral health complications that connect with substance use and addiction. Substance violations leading to suspensions increase student absenteeism and worsen achievement gaps while also ignoring the root cause of substance use.3 Rather, school personnel, enforcement officials, parents and guardians can help students to maintain close connections to the school and its emotional care and health support services while also adopting tobacco-free school policies that encourage healthy environments.
The Public Health Law Center publication provides sample language and ideas for evidence-based solutions and information on why these alternative measures may be more effective than suspension and expulsion at addressing student tobacco use and nicotine addiction as part of a school’s tobacco-free policy. Learn more about additional strategies to adopt and implement alternative disciplinary policies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should my school adopt a comprehensive tobacco‐free and vape-free policy?
The U.S. Surgeon General declared that tobacco use remains the nation’s leading preventable cause of premature death and disability.4 Additionally, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.4 To promote a safe and healthy learning and work environment, adopting a tobacco-free policy encourages tobacco users to reduce or eliminate their consumption and protects non-smokers from exposure to tobacco smoke.
Which tobacco products does the policy apply to?
A comprehensive tobacco policy prohibits the use of all tobacco products on campus, including any lit or unlit cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, pipes, hookah products and any other smoking products. The policy also applies to any smokeless, dissolvable or inhaled tobacco products, including but not limited to dip, chew, snuff or snus in any form (orbs, sticks, strips, pellets, etc.).
Why is the use of e‐cigarettes on my school’s campus not allowed?
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vapes, are battery-operated products that deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals.5 They turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that the user inhales.5 E-cigarettes increase the likelihood of people using other tobacco products. E-cigarettes are harmful to adolescent brain development, often used with other forms of tobacco to increase nicotine intake, and defective e-cigarettes can cause fires and injuries.5
Is exposure to e-cigarettes and other vapor products safer than traditional tobacco products?
There is no safe level of nicotine exposure.6 Nicotine is highly addictive and is particularly harmful to developing brains.2 Nicotine use during adolescence can disrupt the formation of brain circuits that control attention, learning and susceptibility to addiction.2 Research has shown that using tobacco products at an early age and the initial pleasurable experiences of tobacco are directly correlated with long-term daily use and lifetime nicotine dependence.2
What areas of campus will the policy cover?
The policy applies to all school property, other properties owned or leased by the school, and all school-leased or owned vehicles. The policy also covers all school property, including parking lots and on-campus sidewalks.
Why does the policy cover all school property, not just indoors?
Allowing tobacco or vape use on any school property reinforces the use of these products. Secondhand smoke, even outdoors, can be dangerous for people (especially youth) with health complications such as asthma and allergies. Many vape products are easy to conceal; prohibiting any use or possession of tobacco and vape products is essential to discourage students from using them in places like buses, classrooms or bathrooms.
How are we going to ensure policy compliance?
Communication is key. Most people will comply with the policy if they know it exists. Well-Ahead Louisiana offers tobacco-free signage, cessation promotional materials and communication strategies to further promote tobacco-free campuses (see Step 3 above for communication strategies, signage and resources). Enforcement is also a vital piece in policy compliance. When enforcement is clear and consistent, people are more likely to comply.
How will the policy be enforced?
The success of a tobacco-free policy will depend on the thoughtfulness, consideration and cooperation of the people who use tobacco and those who do not. Faculty, staff and students have a responsibility to promote the safety and health of the campus community and, therefore, share in the responsibility of enforcement. Individuals observed using tobacco should be reminded of the school’s policy. Enforce school tobacco and vape policies just as you enforce all other policies, such as those prohibiting the use of alcohol and firearms. The school reserves the right to initiate disciplinary procedures against any individual found to violate the school’s tobacco-free policy.
Why include staff and visitors, and not just students?
Teachers, staff and school visitors can be powerful role models for students. Seeing adults use tobacco and vape products can encourage the use of tobacco products for students. Allowing exceptions for school staff and visitors creates a mixed message for students.
Are vape detectors an effective form of prevention in schools?
Vape detectors are not an evidence-based method to prevent youth from vaping. There are many ways for students to outsmart vaping detection devices, and more research needs to be done to prove that they are effective. Additionally, the development of some of these vape detection devices is supported or funded by the tobacco industry.
Why does the policy encourage schools to provide referrals to cessation resources?
Cessation resources like Quit With Us, Louisiana and Live Vape Free are free, effective and available online or by phone. Providing direct access to these resources is a simple way for schools to demonstrate their commitment to the health of all students, staff and visitors. Learn more about the cessation resources available for youth and adults.