Tobacco Fact File


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


8 Steps to Tobacco-Free Schools


There are 8 important steps to creating and maintaining a Tobacco-Free school policy.  Use these steps to get yourschool to go tobacco-free!


Step 1: Look at the current policy to see where it needs to be changed and get support 

  • Review the school's current tobacco policy.  Look for problems related to the current policy and reasons to change it and/or its enforcement.
  • Identify educational, health, and economic reasons for changing the policy or its enforcement.
  • Interview key stakeholders about a tobacco-free school policy.  Key stakeholders are people who have a say in what happens or who have an important stake in what happens with the policy, like school administrators, teachers, school board members, and community leaders.  Share this information with others, and determine the level of support you may be able to get from the school and from the key stakeholders for the new policy. 
  • Look for possible barriers - things (or people) that might stand in the way of the new policy.
  • Talk with students, staff, parents, and community leaders about attitudes toward the current policy.
  • Identify people who support the new policy, consider putting a petition into use.
  • Get the school board and school administration to support a review of the existing policy.
  • Ask the school board for support and cooperation in developing a new policy or strengthening the enforcement of the current policy.

Step 2: Form or use your school's health advisory committee to recommend a tobacco policy

  • Include representatives from the school and community, including students, teachers, smokers, and nonsmokers.
  • Review the current policy and gather data needed for a new policy or enforcement changes.
  • Review effective policies or enforcement strategies from other school districts
  • Discuss and address the concerns of school administrators and others.

Step 3: Develop a draft of the new policy

  • Keep it simple and specific. 
  • Make sure you specify to whom the policy applies - students, staff, and visitors.
  • Make sure you specify where the policy applies - school buildings, grounds, athletic events, vehicles, etc.
  • Pick a meaningful date (such as the start of the school year) to implement the new policy or begin policy changes.
  • Develop a rationale for the policy.  Visit the Benefits of Tobacco-Free Schools page for help with your rationale.  Address enforcement issues.  Invite local law enforcement officers to assist, if that's appropriate for your policy.
  • Develop consequences for violation of the policy. Be creative!
  • Meet individually with school board members to gain input and support as you prepare the new policy.
  • Determine the level of support prior to proceeding, and be prepared to overcome any barriers that may arise.

Step 4: Present the new policy to the school board

  • Identify students to champion the policy (that is, to support it and argue for it to the school board).
  • Identify an influential member of the school board to champion the policy.
  • Identify a smoker, if possible, on the school board to champion the policy.
  • Obtain and submit the necessary forms to get on the school board agenda.
  • Select a group of your champions to present your new policy or policy changes to the school board - local health care providers, teachers, students, parent school club leaders, athletic directors, and so on.
  • Provide a few pages of information about the policy to board members a few days before the meeting.
  • If possible, meet with board members individually before the meeting.
  • Gather support from community members to attend the meeting.  Publicize it if possible.
  • At the meeting, try to communicate the importance of the policy and ask for the school board's approval to adopt it.
  • Remember that policy change takes time; if at first you don't succeed, strategize and try again.

Once the policy or policy change has been adopted by the school board...

Step 5: Plan the implementation and enforcement strategies

  • Identify enforcement strategies for students, staff, and visitors.
  • Select a date that the changes will go into effect - choose a date 4 to 6 weeks in the future so that you'll have time to prepare.  If possible, you may wish to choose a date with significance, like the beginning of the school year or semester, or the Great American Smokeout (the 3rd Thursday in November).
  • Inform students and staff about the upcoming changes to allow them enough time to prepare for the new policy.
  • Identify cessation resources (quit-smoking programs) available to tobacco users.
  • Identify alternatives to suspension for policy violators.
  • Get ready for complaints about the new policy, and decide how conflicts will be resolved.
  • Organize special sessions to train and educate those who will be enforcing the policy.
  • Emphasize the need for firm, consistent enforcement.
  • Emphasize that being tobacco-free is in the best educational, health, and economic interests of everyone.
  • Focus on the use of tobacco, not on the user.
  • Make a commitment to enforce the policy consistently.

Step 6: Positively communicate the policy throughout the school and community

  • Include a description of the new policy and reasons for the change.
  • Include an emphasis on the educational, health, and economic benefits of the new policy.
  • Include the people affected (for instance, make sure that people know it applies to ALL students, staff, and visitors).
  • Include the implementation date.
  • Include a description of the enforcement procedures.
  • Include information about how and where to get help with quitting tobacco use.
  • Include communication strategies for reaching students, staff, parents, and others.

Step 7: Implement the policy

  • Post signs with a positive no-tobacco use message in all affected areas.  Celebrate the implementation.
  • Recognize that a commitment is necessary to ensure effective implementation of the new policy.
  • Expect an initial testing period.  People may break the rules in an effort to see if they'll really be caught and/or punished.
  • Be extra vigilant during the first few months of policy implementation to help ensure that people take the policy and its enforcement seriously.
  • Provide positive incentives for no-tobacco use on the first day the policy goes into effect, such as healthy snacks, cinnamon candies, etc.
  • Enlist support of community law enforcement agencies.
  • Encourage students, staff, parents, and others to take pride in the new policy.
  • Include tobacco users and non-users in all phases of implementation.
  • Enlist cooperation of local retailers not to sell tobacco to minors.
  • Use educational programs instead of punishment-type programs for student violators.
  • Offer several options for quit-smoking programs.

Step 8: Conduct ongoing advocacy efforts and policy evaluation

  • Collect stories from students and staff of positive effects of the new policy.
  • Collect comments on the policy change from parents and community members
  • Publicize these comments and stories in a school newsletter (send it home to parents!) or the school newspaper.
  • Develop events to recognize students and staff who quit tobacco use.
  • When new administrators, employees, or board members come on board to the school, make them aware of the new policy.
  • Identify problems with the policy's implementation and enforcement, and make the necessary corrections.
  • Have a new tobacco-free schools poster contest each year and post the winners.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.