Health topic: Health Promotion Tobacco and Vaping

Clear the air with smoke-free policy

What's it about?

Smoke-free policy is a written directive that communicates a school or school authority’s position on smoking and vaping. It’s a powerful tool in smoking and vaping prevention, and a key component of a whole school approach.

Bringing smoke-free policy to life is both an art and a science. It starts with attention to provincial laws, and extends to strong policy measures, paired with an evidence-based policy development process.


What's involved?


Start by aligning with provincial standards

Get to know Alberta’s Tobacco, Smoking and Vaping Reduction Act. It bans the use of tobacco and vaping products on school property, including all indoor and outdoor spaces. It also prohibits people under 18 years old (minors) from possessing tobacco or vaping products on school property.

Show students that your school complies with and supports provincial legislation. For example:

  • Clearly communicate that smoking and vaping isn’t permitted at school—use a variety of platforms, like emails, e-newsletters, or announcements.
  • Post signs at school entrances, exits, washrooms, and in outdoor spaces—try positive messages like welcome to our smoke-free school or help keep our school smoke-free, inside and out.
  • Refer to provincial legislation in related school policies, administrative regulations, codes of conduct, and the like.

Many Alberta cities and towns also have municipal tobacco policies in place. Get to know local bylaws and what they mean for your school community. 


Take it further

Move beyond basic compliance with existing legislation. Ensure that your school’s smoke-free policy uses strong policy measures and follows an evidence-based policy development process.

Use strong policy measures

Strengthen your smoke-free policy by using these measures: 

  • Restrictions on the possession and use of smoking and vaping products at school events, including off-site field trips, meetings, and other activities (including virtual ones)
  • Bans on tobacco company involvement in school contracts, investments, funding, or gifts
  • Limits on advertising or promotion of smoking and vaping products at school and school events, including company sponsorship and logos
  • Provisions for the use of sacred tobacco when connecting with Elders and Knowledge Keepers, or at school events and ceremonies
  • Restorative practices for students who possess or use tobacco or vaping products on school property, with a focus on measures like education, counselling, and community support to quit smoking or vaping
  • Clear pathways for referring students or staff to community resources to help them quit smoking or vaping, or providing these resources in school
Follow an evidence-based policy development process

Follow three key steps when creating smoke-free policy: develop, implement, and monitor. These steps lessen resistance to change and increase chances of long-term success. 

  • The develop phase pulls together a diverse team of school community members to oversee policy development. The team takes stock of smoking and vaping in the school community, kick-starts conversations about readiness for change, and sets goals. They write and re-write policy drafts based on strong policy measures and input from the school community.
  • Once the new policy is final, the implement phase raises awareness of what the policy will do, and what it means for the school community. This phase requires clear communication, tailored to the audience. For example, school staff may benefit from emails or in-person meetings, while students may prefer social media or class forums. There will be lots of problem solving along the way.
  • The monitor phase uses data to guide improvements. For example, the policy team may gather verbal or written feedback, document observations, or collect quantitative data. The goal is to figure out what’s working well, and where some tweaks may be needed.

For support with policy development process—including tools, facilitated conversations, and expert advice—connect with the school health promotion facilitator assigned to your school authority.


How it connects

Smoke-free school policies help to make non-smoking the norm at school. Research shows that they reduce the chances that students will take up smoking in the first place, and motivate those who smoke or vape to quit.

Smoke-free public policies can reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, lower smoking prevalence, and improve health outcomes. Comprehensive policies are more effective than partial bans (like those that allow smoking in certain areas or exempt certain people).

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