Frequently Asked Questions
What is a 100% tobacco-free school grounds policy?
A 100% tobacco-free school grounds policy is defined as non-use of tobacco products, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, by EVERYONE: students, faculty, staff and visitors. This includes school-owned/leased vehicles, school athletic events, and school-sponsored events on and off campus. This would include the use of the facilities by other organizations when school is not in session. Tobacco products are defined as cigarettes, cigars, blunts, bidis, pipes, chewing tobacco, snuff, nicotine vapor products (e.g. electronic cigarettes), alternative nicotine products and any other items containing or reasonably resembling tobacco or tobacco products. Tobacco use includes smoking, chewing, dipping or any other use of tobacco products.
Aren't Virginia schools already tobacco-free?
Yes and no. Most school divisions have Virginia School Board association policy language which follows the Virginia statewide smoking regulation to prohibit smoking inside any school building as well as on school buses. This regulation does NOT address smoking on the grounds of a school nor does it address tobacco use at school-sponsored events that are held on or off campus.
Tobacco-free school grounds make sense because they:
- Provide a positive role model by adults. School faculty and staff are tremendous role models for students. A tobacco-free school policy shows a commitment from school administration to prohibit tobacco use on all school grounds.
- Establish a no-tobacco use norm. Adult attitudes and adult tobacco use behaviors can influence youth behaviors and can be misperceived as acceptance. Tobacco-free school grounds policies reduce youth observation of tobacco use and take a firm stand against it.
- Support the prevention messages delivered in classrooms. Kids learn about the dangers of tobacco use in school as well as how to make good decisions and develop resistance skills to refuse offers of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. But students get a mixed message when they step outside on school grounds to see groups of peers or adults using tobacco.
- Provide a safe environment for students and adults by eliminating secondhand smoke exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer.1 Secondhand smoke can trigger asthma attacks or aggravate other breathing problems.
- Reduce litter from smokeless tobacco items and the risk of fires due to smoking materials.
- Prepare students for the reality of smoke-free workplaces and communities.
Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death in this country and according to the 2012 Surgeon General’s Report nearly all tobacco use begins in childhood and adolescence. Additionally, youth are particularly sensitive to social and environmental influences with relation to smoking behaviors and the younger people are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted to nicotine and the more heavily addicted they will become.
In Virginia, high school smoking has dropped from 28.6% in 2001 to 11.1% in 2013. Comprehensive tobacco-free school policies will help continue these declines and make our communities healthier.
Where can I get sample policy language to share with my school system?
Download PDF version of sample policy here.