School operations

Smoking and Vaping Ban

Supporting students to stop vaping

Student self-referral and help seeking behaviour

Students may hesitate to seek help due to worry about consequences at school, among peers and at home.

It is recommended that schools tell students that they will be supported to stop vaping and will not be punished if they approach school staff for help. This prioritises health and wellbeing support ahead of punitive approaches.

Good practice engages student voice to design what an accessible help seeking approach might look like at school. Refer to the Student Voice, Agency and Leadership policy for more information.

Informing students of help available

It is recommended that schools:

  • frame vaping as a health and wellbeing concern, rather than a behavioural or disciplinary problem
  • assure students that they will not be punished by the school for asking for help, and will be supported
  • communicate to students about how to seek help inside and outside of school, such as Quitline (calling 13 78 48, texting or requesting callback, online webchat)
  • display clear and visible information for students about help-seeking options.

Refer to Managing vaping incidents for more advice on appropriate referrals and supports.

Supporting student autonomy, safety and privacy

It is recommended that schools:

  • provide counselling spaces that are discreet and comfortable for students
  • support student self-referral or self-booking to Student Wellbeing supports (for example, a confidential form, online booking system available to all students, or by providing information about how students can self-refer) without needing sign-off from teachers, parents or carers to seek help. Once students have referred themselves, schools will then need to follow their usual consent processes to deliver health and wellbeing services to students
  • where possible, encourage and offer support to students to tell parents/carers and include family in any plan to stop vaping
  • assure students that their privacy concerns will be managed on a 'need to know' basis with school staff to support the student’s health and wellbeing, consistent with the department’s Privacy and Information Sharing policy.

Case study

Mrs Kaur is a secondary school English teacher. In between classes, she’s approached by Jax, a Year 9 student. He tells her quietly that he’s thinking about quitting vapes. He’s looked at the Quit website but isn’t sure if he’s old enough to use Quitline.

Mrs Kaur encourages Jax to make an appointment with the school’s Student Wellbeing team. She reassures Jax that he’s doing the right thing, and that he won’t get in trouble asking for help.

Jax makes an appointment with Mr Wilson, the school counsellor, at lunchtime so that he doesn’t need to leave class.

Mr Wilson reassures Jax that he’s doing the right thing for his health. He suggests that Jax tell his mum that he wants to quit vaping, so that he can be supported outside of school and at home. If needed, Mr Wilson offers to speak to Jax’s mum to make it clear that Jax isn’t in trouble at school, and that Jax is seeking help and is motivated to quit.

With Mr Wilson’s help, Jax books an online appointment with Quitline.

Managing cravings in the classroom

Nicotine dependence is a health issue. Schools may need to support in-class behavioural and engagement strategies for students who are stopping vaping. This may require coordination between health and wellbeing staff and teachers.

For most people, nicotine withdrawal symptoms fade over time (with symptoms particularly intense in the first 24 to 72 hours) and generally dissipate over 2 to 4 weeks. Royal Children’s Hospital has more information about nicotine withdrawalExternal Link .

Quit VictoriaExternal Link offers advice for managing cravings. Schools can plan with students and implement appropriate in-class strategies to support them. Some strategies might include students:

  • letting staff know they are having a craving
  • pausing to close their eyes or breathe deeply
  • keeping hands busy, such as using a stress ball or fidget spinner, or picking up a pen to start drawing or writing
  • getting a book or activity to briefly occupy themselves
  • having a drink of water.

Case study

Mr Lewis is a science teacher. He has asked Em, a Year 8 student, to meet him to discuss her recent performance in class. Mr Lewis says that he’s noticed Em is more irritable during class, and often makes excuses to leave class. Mr Lewis tells her he wants her to succeed and asks if there is something that she is concerned about that might be impacting her work and her engagement with peers.

Em tells Mr Lewis that she’s been trying to quit vapes. She didn’t think stopping would be so hard until she tried to quit. He explains that help and support is available, and refers her to the school nurse.

Mr Au, the school nurse, meets with Em and explains nicotine dependence. Mr Au explains that Em’s symptoms might last for a few weeks as her body and brain re-adjusts, but they are only temporary. With the help of a Quitline counsellor, Mr Au and Em create an individual plan with strategies to deal with cravings in class, such as taking a drink of water or squeezing a stress ball.

Em says that she doesn’t feel comfortable letting some teachers know she’s trying to quit. Mr Au offers to speak to those teachers. However, Mr Au feels it is important for Em to tell some teachers she trusts about her plan herself. Em decides to start with her science teacher, Mr Lewis.

Nicotine replacement therapy

Research is still looking at the effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in persons 12 years of age or older who vape. Medical practitioners might prescribe patches, lozenges or gum where behavioural supports alone cannot control cravings or stop vaping, or where nicotine withdrawal are significantly disruptive and severe.

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

Medical practitioners cannot prescribe an e-cigarette device to a person under 18 years of age who is quitting tobacco or smoking.

Includes information on student self-referral and help seeking behaviour, managing cravings in the classroom and nicotine replacement therapy

Reviewed 04 March 2024

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