Tobacco Fact File


Benefits of Tobacco-Free Schools l 8 Steps to Tobacco-Free Schools l Model School Tobacco Policy


Benefits of Tobacco-Free Schools


If you or someone else needs convincing about why you should have a tobacco-free school...  then this is the place to be.


Provides positive role modeling by adult employees and visitors

The idea that tobacco use is 'normal' and that it is socially accepted by others (including respected adults) encourages students to use tobacco products. 

 Enacting and enforcing a tobacco-free school policy represents a firm commitment by the school's administration, teachers, and parents to prohibit tobacco use by students, employees, and visitors, and gives adults a chance to be positive role models for students.  

Enforcement of the tobacco-free policy confirms the commitment and provides genuine opportunities for adults and peers to serve as role models for no-tobacco use.

Reduces young people's observation of tobacco use and takes a firm stand against it

Adult attitudes towards tobacco use and adult tobacco use behaviors can affect students' perceptions about whether or not tobacco use is acceptable.  Studies have found that whether or not parents take a strong stand against their kids using tobacco products plays a key role in whether or not their teens start (and continue) to use tobacco (Swan, et al). 

Supports (rather than confuses or contradicts) prevention messages delivered in classrooms by sending clear, consistent non-use messages

Tobacco use prevention education is a very important part of comprehensive school health programs.  Students are often taught skills to help them resist offers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Coaches of sports teams regularly prohibit tobacco use by team members. School hallways and bulletin boards often display prevention messages.  

With all of these messages against tobacco all around them, what are students supposed to think when they step outside and see groups of students and/or teachers using tobacco on school grounds?  Schools that are not tobacco-free send conflicting messages to students about tobacco use.

Provides a safe environment for students by reducing their exposure to second hand smoke

Young people are often the involuntary victims of second hand smoke both indoors and outdoors. If smoking is allowed indoors, the only way to keep the smoke from migrating is by enclosing the smoking area on all sides and from floor to ceiling, and by also using a separate ventilation system.  Just separating the smoking and non-smoking areas doesn't work. 

Often people smoke outside near the entrances to the building or near the ventilation system's fresh air intakes - this can result in the migration of second hand smoke indoors.  

Groups of students, employees, or visitors smoking outside school entrances or at school sponsored events can make it difficult for students who do not want to have smoke on their clothes or in their hair.  

Passing through the smoking area may trigger an asthma attack or exacerbate respiratory problems in students.  This does not meet the standard of a safe environment for students!

Protects young people from a dangerous drug.  Tobacco use is not just a "bad habit;" it is a powerful addiction

The Food and Drug administration has classified nicotine (the addictive ingredient in tobacco) as a drug.  School policies do not allow the use of other drugs, such as alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine, on school grounds and at school sponsored events.  Why should an exception be made for nicotine and tobacco?

Complies with Federal Legislation prohibiting smoking inside school buildings

The Pro Children Act of 1994 states the following: "No person shall permit smoking within any indoor facility utilized for services to kindergarten, elementary, or secondary education or library services to children."  Also included are children's services for routine health care or day care or early childhood development. This applies to all schools and programs that are funded by the Federal Government or through State and local Government by Federal grant, loan, and loan guarantee or contract programs.  This means that for a public school to allow smoking indoors anywhere on campus is going against Federal Legislation.

Does not contradict state law on smoking in public places

Anne Dellinger, Professor of Public Law and Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill helps to interpret federal and state law on smoking in public places and in schools.  She says:

"Federal law requires that, if they are to remain eligible for federal funding school districts must ban smoking in their 'indoor facilities.'  However, the law specifically allows states to have more restrictive laws.  Thus, a school district's complete ban on smoking should not jeopardize its federal funding.

"North Carolina law prevents units of state or local government from banning smoking in most public places, including their own buildings.  However, the law does not apply to a 'primary or secondary school... except for a teacher's lounge.' Therefore, since federal law will not allow indoor smoking without violating North Carolina law, smoking may be banned at school.

"But, in what parts of a school?  Does the exemption apply to the whole school, or, as under the federal act, are only indoor facilities available for a ban? 'School' is not defined either in the smoking article of Chapter 143 or in Chapter 115C, Elementary and Secondary Education.  Thus, one must look to the plain meaning of the word.  

"In my opinion, 'school' is commonly understood as more than a set of enclosed buildings.  Note that the federal act did not use 'school' as a synonym for 'indoor facilities.'  In addition, dictionaries list the most common usage of a word followed by more specialized ones.  Dictionaries I consulted defined 'school' as a totality first.  In both sources, the definition of school as buildings was listed considerably later.  

"In sum, I think reading the broader definition of 'school' into the exemption provision is more reasonable as a matter of language, as well as more consistent with the General Assembly's policy, expressed in criminal law, of not exposing minors to tobacco."

Models respect for state laws designed to limit access to tobacco by young people

In 1997 the North Carolina State Legislature amended the existing state law prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to people under age 18.  The new provisions became effective December 1, 1997.  

Under the new law, schools can uphold the intent of the law to limit youth access to tobacco products by creating policies that prohibit tobacco use by students, employees, and visitors at all times, in all school buildings, on all school grounds, and at all school sponsored events.  

Additionally, schools can consistently enforce tobacco use policies and can confiscate tobacco products and paraphernalia brought to school.

Prepares students for the reality of smoke-free workplaces and communities

Employers are becoming more and more reluctant to hire smokers, due to increased absences, health care costs, and disability.  Additionally, smokers take more breaks (to feed their addictions) during the work day than nonsmokers.  In today's  competitive job market and nonsmoking community environments, it is important that all students leave their school years without a smoking handicap.  If a student insists on being a smoker, they will at least be prepared for the reality of a working environment in which they may have to go all day without a cigarette.  

Proactively protects schools from unnecessary risk of future liability by prohibiting smoking on school premises 

Lawsuits related to tobacco addiction and exposure to second hand smoke are increasing.  People have been awarded damages in lawsuits because their employers failed to provide a safe, smoke-free work environment.  With the rise in the number of children with asthma, there may be more cause for concern, especially if an asthma attack or other respiratory problems are triggered because a student is exposed to tobacco smoke in a school setting.  By banning tobacco use on school grounds and at school sponsored events, the school is ensuring that no student will have an illness or ailment triggered by tobacco smoke in the school setting, thereby ensuring that they won't be legally and financially liable in the future.

Reduces the risk of fires due to lighted tobacco products

Lighted tobacco products are the leading cause of fire deaths in the U.S.  "Lighted tobacco products" refers to things like cigarettes and cigars -- it does not include matches or lighters.  

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were more than 150,000 lighted tobacco product fires in the U.S. in 1995!  These fires resulted in almost 4,000 deaths and injuries and $507 MILLION in direct property damage!  More people die in fires caused by lighted tobacco products than any other type of fire in the U.S.  

Lighted cigarettes can be easily tossed into school trash cans, especially in bathrooms. This makes students more likely to be injured in a fire than if the school were tobacco-free.