By using a whole-of-organisation approach that includes staff, students, families and the wider community, early childhood services and schools are ideally placed to improve health behaviours which can help prevent chronic disease, support better learning outcomes and set children and adults up with healthy habits for life. Early childhood services and schools are also workplaces (refer to guidance for workplaces) and have a valuable opportunity to positively influence healthy behaviour of the people who spend time there.
The Achievement Program provides guidance and support for education settings to become healthier places for their community. The program is a free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create healthier places, provides links to best-practice resources and case studies, and provides Victorian government recognition once applicable standards have been met.
Evidence-based actions that an early childhood service or school can take to reduce tobacco-related harm and become a healthier place include:
Educate Victorian children and young people about the harm associated with tobacco use
Smoking can lead to addiction and is linked to serious health issues such as heart disease, cancer and stroke. The childhood and teenage years, particularly for at-risk groups, is the perfect time to build awareness around the risks of smoking and prevent young people from taking up smoking as a habit that could have health impacts into adulthood. Smoking prevention is most effective when a whole school approach is taken and might include:
- displaying smoke-free signage at all entry points to your early childhood service or school and inform any staff, families and visitors of the smoke-free policy upon arrival
- communicating the negative health effects of smoking for all students
- supporting students to develop interpersonal skills to prevent smoking, including assertiveness, communication and a sense of safety
- educating parents and staff about how peer behaviour influences children's decision making and avoid modelling of smoking behaviour within the school, including in school plays
- allocating time for staff to undertake training regarding tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
Reduce exposure of Victorian children and young people to tobacco smoke, including exposure to second- and third-hand tobacco smoke
Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of environmental tobacco smoke and are at a higher risk of developing a range of respiratory illnesses. Reducing exposure to second- and third-hand smoke ensures that children and young people can enter and leave their learning environments without being exposed to harmful second- and third-hand smoke and also reduces the role modelling of smoking behaviours around children and young people, helping to 'denormalise' smoking behaviour and discourage them from taking up smoking. Steps an early childhood service or school can take to create healthy environments for learning include:
- ensuring staff members who are smokers undertake appropriate handwashing and oral hygiene measures to remove any traces of smoke so that children are not exposed to second- and third-hand tobacco smoke
- informing staff, educators and families that they are peer models for the children and therefore should not smoke in front of them
- implementing a policy and process regarding external organisations who use the premises, to have a formal contract and code of conduct that requires agreement that the premises are smoke-free at all times.
Smokers have access to resources and support to learn about smoking and to quit smoking
Most smokers want to quit smoking with eight in ten smokers in Victoria indicating they want to quit. Evidence shows that people who have the best chance of quitting are individuals who get support and use pharmacotherapy. Supporting smokers who want to quit by providing a good support network and referring them to appropriate agencies will encourage them to follow through with planned quitting strategies and stay smoke-free. Early childhood services and schools can help by:
- supporting smokers to quit through access to information about smoking cessation and referral to appropriate agencies to seek advice, support, information and treatment referral
- providing staff with tobacco information and policy requirements during staff induction and orientation
- ensuring resources about health risks related to smoking are readily available to staff, families and community members.
Resources on this topic include:
- Learning environments - smoke-free, Department of Health and Human Services
- Smoking ban, Department of Education and Training
- Tobacco control, Australian Government
- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, World Health Organisation
- Action Agenda for Health Promotion 2019-23, VicHealth
- Resources and factsheets, Department of Health and Human Services
- Don't make smokes your story, Australian Government
- Safeguarding children's wellbeing through protection from tobacco smoke, World Health Organisation
- The Critics' Choice (program), The Critics' Choice (resources)
- Resource order form, Quit Victoria
- Smoking and tobacco regulation, Heart Foundation
- Deadly Dan at the League: The Book, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service