Tobacco and Substance Use


Young people spend a lot of time in the school setting, putting schools and educators in an excellent position to promote positive mental health and prevent the misuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco.   

How schools can help prevent tobacco and substance misuse: 

  • Help youth build Developmental Assets® – the positive experiences and qualities that can promote positive development and prevent high-risk behaviours.  

  • Students who feel connected to their schools are less likely to engage in drug use. Establish school connectedness by increasing student participation, improving relationships and creating a positive school culture. 

  • Provide substance use content within classroom curriculum in a way that is highly interactive, skill-focused and age-appropriate. Education should start young with broad content and continue over many years with more specific information about substances. You can find classroom resources below. 

  • Enhance students’ cognitive, social and emotional skills to improve their decision-making ability. Provide students will the tools to manage stress and pressure to help enhance their refusal skills later in life. You can find resources at School Mental Health Ontario

  • Many teens overestimate rates of smoking, drinking and drug use among their peers. Correct misconceptions by providing accurate information, highlighting the number of students who do not use substances. Make sure content is relevant to students’ current experiences and substance use patterns, and emphasize short-term, social consequences of drug use that are important to youth.  

  • Students want to know more about why people start using drugs. Provide them with this information in an unbiased, non-judgemental way. Messages that try to arouse fear or emphasize the evils of drug use do not work.  

  • Active parental involvement in children’s education is a critical piece in preventing substance misuse in youth. Support family interventions that work alongside school programs. Find resources for parents and information about the Triple P Positive Parenting Program and sessions in your area

  • The community plays a large role in youth substance misuse prevention. Support the development of local partnerships to support the programs in school and to engage families in community-based activities. 

Learn more: Effective and Comprehensive Approaches to Substance Misuse Prevention among Youth

Classroom Resources 


All Substances  

  • Level Up (Ophea): Resource to support educators in promoting positive mental health and overall well-being with children and youth ages 6 to 18.  

  • Lung Health FoundationThe “Talking About…” series is an educational resource addressing cannabis, tobacco, vaping, and water pipes. The series includes a set of activity guides, one for each topic, to help facilitate critical discussion with young people (Grades 7-12) in a fun and informative manner.

  • iMinds: Cross-curricular tools for improving students’ drug and gambling literacy. Topics addressed include tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, opioids, caffeine, other drugs and gambling.  

  • MediaSmarts: Lesson plans to help students develop critical thinking skills to engage with media as active, informed digital citizens. Topics selected: Alcohol Marketing and Tobacco Marketing. 

  • Project Alert: Program of 14 lesson plans, designed and evaluated to increase the likelihood of teens remaining drug-free. 

  • More information on drugs


  • Tobacco Prevention Toolkit: Theory-based and evidence-informed resources aimed at preventing middle and high school students’ use of tobacco and nicotine.  

  • Tobacco Wise: Learn about the traditional or sacred use of tobacco by First Nations and Métis peoples. 

  • More information on tobacco


Tip Sheets

  • School Mental Health Ontario – Vaping: What Educators Need to Know
  • Media Smarts - Talking to Kids About Vaping: Information about how vape products are marketed to youth and tips to start the conversation. Available in English and French.

Activities & Lesson Plans

  • Vaping: What's the Hype? (Grades 5-9): A toolkit with curriculum-linked activities for students in grades 5-9 to learn and critically think about vaping. Available in English and French.
  • Ophea - Vaping Education Resources (Grades 4-8): Information for educators and videos to support elementary students to develop social-emotional learning skills and make informed decisions about vaping. Available in English and French.
  • Not an Experiment (Grades 7-8): Information and educator resources including a Power Point and Escape Room activity. Available in English and French.
  • CATCH My Breath (Grades 6-9): Free curriculum for middle and high school students on vaping. 

Quit Supports

More Information


  • Ophea - Cannabis Education Resources: Evidence-based resources for educators and administrators related to substance use, creating safe inclusive spaces, legalization of cannabis, and mental health and well-being.  

  • Lung Health Foundation “Talking About…” Series: Activity guides to help facilitate critical discussion with youth.
  • Cycles: Film-based resource that encourages teens to talk openly and honestly about why some young people use cannabis. Includes film, guide, discussion questions, and classroom activities. 


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