Tennessee Tobacco Free Schools Policy Toolkit


This Tobacco Free School Toolkit was developed by the Tobacco Use Prevention & Control Program at the Tennessee Department of Health. Within this toolkit, there are ways to tackle many of the concerns school professionals have around youth vaping and tobacco use on their campuses.

This K-12 Tobacco Prevention Toolkit Contains

  • Tips for enforcing a tobacco free policy at your school
  • Tools to help you educate students about the dangers of tobacco use
  • Resources for parents and guardians
  • Ways you can help youth quit tobacco products

This toolkit contains the recommendations of the Tennessee Department of Health as part of an initiative to support educators and school administrators with the tobacco prevention programs in their K-12 schools.  It is published for informational purposes only, and is not intended to take the place of local school district policies or procedures.

Youth Vaping

E-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth for the past six years.1

It is estimated that 50% of Tennessee high school students have tried an e-cigarette.1

K-12 Toolkit Youth Current Use Graph

E-cigarettes can look like traditional cigarettes, but may also resemble pens, USB drives, or other non-tobacco products.


K-12 Toolkit E-Cigarette Types

Companies have used many techniques to market their products to youth, including sleek and high-tech designs that are attractive to young users, and flavors like “blue razz lemonade” and "cotton candy.” In March 2019, the FDA took steps to restrict flavored e-cigarettes, but those regulations did not include popular mint and menthol flavors. These regulations also created a loophole that left many flavored tobacco products on the market.3

Effects of E-cigarettes

Nicotine in E-Cigarettes

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance found in tobacco products. It affects key receptors in the developing brain, making young people more susceptible to nicotine addiction and potentially lead to future addictions.5

Not only does the use of these products increase the risk for addiction, but it can also harm brain development that may impact student’s health and mental health, which puts students at higher risk for lower attendance and academic performance.5

EVALI Outbreak

In 2019 and early 2020, there was a nationwide outbreak of vaping-related severe lung injury which resulted in multiple deaths.6

What they're made of

E-cigarettes have varying amounts of nicotine, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, nickel, tin and copper.5

The EVALI outbreak was strongly linked to vitamin E acetate and drew attention to the lack of regulation around e-cigarettes at that time.6

In December 2019, the federal government made it illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco to anyone under the age of 21 to help protect youth from these dangerous pitfalls.4

Learn how to communicate with students about the dangers of vaping here.

Connecting with Parents

Educating parents about the negative effects of tobacco use can help prevention efforts.

Host an Information Session

Partner with your local health department and other organizations to present the facts on tobacco use. The health consequences for youth growth, development, addiction, and how parents can support their children in being tobacco free should be addressed in this session.

Provide resources to parents that give them the knowledge to have meaningful conversations with their children.

More on Parent Resources here.

Communicating Tobacco Free Policies

The policy needs to be displayed visibly and articulated clearly in the student handbook and on the school district’s website, as well as individual school websites.

Visible signage should be at all school-board-owned properties, including at the entrances to the school grounds, on athletic fields and properties, and at entrances to school buildings.

Make announcements at the beginning of public events hosted by the school, such as sporting events, school plays, and back-to-school nights. For events where people come and go, consider making announcements periodically throughout the event as a reminder.

Communication can be done via social media, newsletters, and similar channels.

Get printable signage here.

Enforcing Tobacco Policies

Proper enforcement of your tobacco free policy is critical to its success. Tobacco use is more than a discipline issue; it's an addiction issue.5

Progressive Discipline
Disciplinary procedures should start with lesser consequences and become more severe with each violation.

Adolescents can quickly become addicted to nicotine, even if they are not daily tobacco users. Students who violate the tobacco free school policy should always be provided with resources to help them quit using tobacco products.

Keep open lines of communication with parents to ensure understanding. Avoid shaming and instead provide support and resources.

Check out INDEPTH: An Alternative to Teen Nicotine Suspension or Citation here.


TNSTRONG (Tennessee Stop Tobacco and Revolutionize Our New Generation) is a youth-led, statewide movement committed to raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco and fighting against the tobacco industry's influence on Tennessee youth.

TNSTRONG Ambassadors

Ambassadors plan, implement and participate in tobacco education and advocacy events across Tennessee. They engage in local and statewide activism, educate their peers on tobacco-related issues, and inspire others to start taking action. These youth leaders receive specialized in-person and web-based training to advance their knowledge and further their advocacy skills.

Learn more about TNSTRONG here.

Tobacco Free Sports

School sports teams have the opportunity to pledge to be tobacco free. When a team pledges it includes all teammates and their coach. Reach out to your local health department for more information.

What to know about Tennessee Youth Tobacco Use

K-12 Toolkit - Infographic

Quitting Resources



Smokefree Teen

Text Quit to 47848 -or-Download the quitSTART app

Truth Initiative

Text DITCHVAPE to 88709 to join This is Quitting

American Lung Association

Learn how to start your own N-O-T: Not On Tobacco program here.


1.      Tennessee Department of Education. Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Available at: www.cdc.gov/YRBS.

2.      Chau R, Jackler C, Getachew B, et al. JUUL advertising over its first three years on the market. Stanford University School of Medicine. https://www.wbtw.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/09/JUUL_Marketing_Stanford.pdf. Published 2019. Accessed April 7, 2022.

3.      Tobacco Products and Health Harms: Flavored Tobacco Products. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/fact-sheets/tobaccos-toll-health-harms-and-cost/tobacco-products-and-health-harms-flavored-tobacco-products. Published November 26, 2021. Accessed April 7, 2022.

4.      Public Health Law Center. E-Cigarette Regulations - Tennessee. https://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/resources/us-e-cigarette-regulations-50-state-review/tn. Published December 15, 2021. Accessed April 18, 2022.

5.      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2016. https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/2016_SGR_Full_Report_non-508.pdf. Accessed April 7, 2022.

6.      Outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html. Published August 3, 2021. Accessed April 7, 2022.

v1: 04/27/2022