Managing vaping incidents

Schools can refer to the below procedures to follow when students are vaping on school sites or at school activities. These are consistent with the department’s Alcohol and Other Drugs – Students policy.

Respond to an emergency

When responding to an emergency, it is important to remember that:

  • e-cigarette inhalation may cause acute breathing difficulty or trigger an asthma attack
  • swallowing vaping liquidsExternal Link may result in nicotine poisoning – symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and stomach pain, and feeling burning inside the mouth and throat.

In the event of any emergency – such as a very unwell student, difficulty breathing, drowsiness or loss of consciousness – call 000 for emergency medical assistance. Follow your school’s First Aid procedures and/or Emergency Management Plan.

In the event of skin or eye contact with vaping liquid, wash the site with clean running water only, and contact the Victorian Poisons Information CentreExternal Link on 131 126.

Report incidents that cause harm to a student’s health in line with the Managing and Reporting School Incidents (Including Emergencies) policy.

Contain the incident and confiscate the e-cigarette

When confiscating products:

  • label, and store securely for collection by the student’s parents/carers
  • store them in a dry place away from sunlight and heat.

Explain to the student that smoking and vaping are banned at school, and there are behavioural expectations for students.

Schools may ask where the student has obtained their device and liquids (including online or social media), noting students are not required to disclose. Retail traders (for example, tobacconists, convenience stores) can be reported to Crime Stoppers onlineExternal Link or on 1800 333 000.

Consider non-punitive interventions (referral to wellbeing supports) before disciplinary measures. For complex or repeated incidents, follow the department’s guidance on Managing and responding to behaviour – consequences for students.

Contact parents or carers

It is strongly recommended to contact a student’s parent or carer after a vaping incident to:

  • explain the vaping incident, emphasise the ban on possession, supply or use of a vaping device at school
  • request parent/carer attend the school to collect the student’s confiscated vaping product
  • provide parent/carer with information about vaping (refer to resources for parents, carers and families).

For more complex or repeated incidents, schools must follow any processes set out in their local Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy when engaging with parents/carers. Schools can also refer to the department’s guidance on Managing and responding to behaviour – consequences for students for further information.

Refer the student to school health and wellbeing supports

Student health and wellbeing staff (for example, the school nurse, wellbeing coordinator, Doctors in Secondary Schools and SSS) may explore the student’s reasons for vaping, such as stress, peer pressure, mental health, or relationships at home and school.

When speaking to students, staff are encouraged to:

  • explain why the ban on vaping in schools is in place (vaping can harm student health, wellbeing and engagement, and is against the law)
  • avoid lecturing or using scare tactics, and remain fact-basedExternal Link
  • explore the student’s motivation and readiness to change their behaviour, and identity possible commitment for action.

Staff may:

If needed, refer the student to other health, mental health and wellbeing supports or services. This may include Secondary School Nurses, Doctors in Secondary Schools, Mental Health Practitioners, or headspace.

Implement any other health, wellbeing and behaviour supports if relevant

Refer to the department’s Health Care Needs and Medication policies to support students who are prescribed nicotine replacement therapy by a medical practitioner.

Refer to the department’s Behaviour – Students policy for students who may need additional behavioural supports.


Suspension is a serious disciplinary measure. Principals must follow the process set out in Ministerial Order 1125, which requires consideration of whether the behaviour falls within the grounds for suspension, and considering alternative interventions and supports. Refer to the department’s Suspensions policy.

Use or possession of an e-cigarette does not fall under any of the grounds for suspension of a student.

Every effort must be made to retain students in education as they are often at greater risk of harm or disadvantage if disengaged from school.

Vape detectors and school-wide restrictive measures

School-wide measures such as vape detectors or locking bathrooms are not encouraged. Responses that are exclusionary, invasive or restrict all students’ rights to privacy may not be effective and reduce student and staff trust and engagement.

Vape detectors require capital and ongoing costs, may be tampered with, and will not always identify students who are vaping on school grounds. The department is not aware of any credible evidence to suggest that vape detectors in bathrooms prevent young people from vaping at school.

Restricting access to bathroom and change room facilities could give rise to health or wellbeing risks to students, including for menstruating students or those with health concerns or disabilities.

Schools must not install CCTV cameras in toilets, change rooms, dressing rooms, showers or other areas where individual privacy is paramount. Refer to the CCTV in Schools policy.

Webinars and other professional learning

Schools are encouraged to be mindful of unsolicited commercial offers, including webinars and ‘professional learning’ from external companies marketing their own vape detectors and other products.

Department policy requires all visiting speakers support the school’s educational programs and align with relevant department policies and procedures.

Schools must not engage in or promote professional learning, presentations to students, or webinars created or run by people who either work for the tobacco industry or are working to further its interests by receiving funding from the tobacco industry.

It is recommended that schools ask potential speakers to declare any conflicts of interest, including affiliation with the tobacco industry, prior to engaging them.
The tobacco industry includes tobacco manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and importers of tobacco products.

Refer to the Visitors in Schools policy for more information about appropriate visiting speakers.

Schools can request advice from if needed.

Search measures

A principal’s power to search for or seize harmful items under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) does not extend to e-cigarettes. Refer to the Weapons and Other Harmful Items – Banning, Searching and Seizing policy.

Students who sell e-cigarettes on school premises

It is illegal for anyone to sell e-cigarette products to people under 18 years of age, including to friends or contacts on social media.

For students selling e-cigarettes, refer to the advice within this guidance for Managing vaping incidents.

Schools are encouraged to report to the police any individuals from outside of the school community entering school premises to sell e-cigarettes and vape products.

E-cigarette disposal

Confiscated e-cigarette devices and liquids must be returned to parents and carers.

If required to dispose of e-cigarettes, do not dispose the devices and liquids in general waste. If needed, dispose through a waste removal service that can receive lithium batteries and liquid nicotine (a poison). Schools may contact their local council’s waste management service or local police station for disposal advice.

If schools have a current contract for waste removal services (for example, battery collection), check with the contractor whether they can dispose of e-cigarettes.

Case study

Mr Perez, a school aide, sees Sam, a Year 10 student, vaping at school. Mr Perez confiscates the vape. He explains that vaping is banned at school, and that the school’s policy is to notify Sam’s year coordinator, Ms Fakhoury, and Sam’s parents of the incident. Mr Perez stores and labels Sam’s vape securely in a locked cabinet in the front office.

Ms Fakhoury calls Sam’s parents and asks them to collect Sam’s vape. She explains to them that there is a strict vaping ban at school to protect Sam’s and other students’ health, wellbeing and learning. Ms Fakhoury tells Sam’s parents that Sam has agreed to meet with the school nurse. She shares online information about the harms of vaping. Ms Fakhoury explains repeated incidents will lead to disciplinary action, and support to stop using vapes can be accessed through the school.

Ms Fakhoury arranges for Sam to meet with Mr Kassa, the school nurse. Sam says that they don’t think that they have a problem with vaping. Mr Kassa explains there is help available through Quitline or their GP and shares online information Sam can look at in their own time.

Mr Kassa encourages Sam to share this information with their parents – Mr Kassa offers to chat with them if Sam wishes. Mr Kassa reminds Sam that if they ask for help about their vaping, support is available.

Includes information on responding to an emergency, suspensions, vape detectors, webinars and other professional learning, search measures, and e-cigarette disposal

Reviewed 04 March 2024

Was this page helpful?