Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 110, Issue 2, pp 236–243 | Cite as

Assessing the strength of secondary school tobacco policies of schools in the COMPASS study and the association to student smoking behaviours

  • Adam G. ColeEmail author
  • Sarah Aleyan
  • Wei Qian
  • Scott T. Leatherdale
Quantitative Research



The school environment is an ideal setting to introduce policies to prevent smoking behaviour. However, there may be variability in the strength of school board and secondary school tobacco policies, which may affect student smoking behaviours. This study assessed the strength of a sample of school board and secondary school tobacco policies and examined the association with student smoking behaviours.


Tobacco policies from school boards (n = 21/26) and secondary schools (n = 43/81) that participated in the COMPASS study during 2015–2016 were obtained online. A standardized instrument was used to assess the strength of school board and secondary school tobacco policies on four domains. Using the sample of students from schools with identified policies (n = 22,696), separate multilevel regression models examined the association between school policy scores and a student’s susceptibility to smoking, ever smoking, current smoking, and perceived support of the school environment.


The mean school board tobacco policy score was 13.7/40 and the mean secondary school tobacco policy score was 11.3/40. Students were significantly less likely to report current smoking (OR 0.95, 95% CI 0.91–0.99) and more likely to report a supportive school environment (OR 1.06, 95% CI 1.04–1.08) with each four-unit (i.e., 10%) increase in school tobacco policy score.


The vast majority of school board and secondary school tobacco policies were missing components and therefore could not be considered comprehensive. Stronger school tobacco policies may help to reduce student current smoking behaviours.


School health promotion Adolescent Cigarette smoking School tobacco policy 



Le milieu scolaire est l’endroit idéal où introduire des politiques de prévention du tabagisme. Les effets des politiques des conseils scolaires et des écoles secondaires sur le tabagisme des élèves peuvent toutefois varier selon la rigueur de ces politiques. Nous avons évalué la rigueur des politiques antitabac d’un échantillon de conseils scolaires et d’écoles secondaires et examiné son association avec le tabagisme des élèves.


Les politiques antitabac des conseils scolaires (n = 21/26) et des écoles secondaires (n = 43/81) ayant participé à l’étude COMPASS en 2015–2016 ont été obtenues en ligne. À l’aide d’un instrument standardisé, nous avons évalué la rigueur de ces politiques dans quatre domaines. Dans notre échantillon d’élèves fréquentant les écoles ayant des politiques antitabac (n = 22,696), nous avons utilisé des modèles distincts de régression multiniveau pour examiner l’association entre la note attribuée à la politique scolaire et la susceptibilité de fumer d’un élève, son tabagisme passé, son tabagisme actuel et le soutien perçu du milieu scolaire.


La note moyenne attribuée aux politiques antitabac des conseils scolaires était de 13,7/40, et la note moyenne attribuée aux politiques antitabac des écoles secondaires était de 11,3/40. Pour chaque hausse de quatre unités (c.-à-d. 10 %) de la note attribuée à une politique scolaire antitabac, les élèves étaient significativement moins susceptibles de dire fumer actuellement (RC 0,95, IC de 95% 0,91-0,99) et plus susceptibles de se dire soutenus par le milieu scolaire (RC 1,06, IC de 95% 1,04-1,08).


La très grande majorité des politiques antitabac des conseils scolaires et des écoles secondaires ont été jugées incomplètes; il leur manquait des éléments. Des politiques scolaires antitabac plus rigoureuses pourraient contribuer à réduire le tabagisme actuel des élèves.


Santé scolaire Adolescent Consommation de cigarettes Politiques scolaires antitabac 


Funding information

This work was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Research Award—Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship (GSD-140312; to AGC). The original COMPASS study (2012-2015) was supported by a bridge grant from CIHR (OOP-110788; to STL) and an operating grant from CIHR (MOP-114875; to STL). Renewal of the COMPASS study (2016-2021) is funded by an operating grant from CIHR (PJT-148562; to SLT). The expansion of COMPASS to new jurisdictions is funded by a project grant from the Substance Use and Addictions Program at Health Canada (CA-1617-HQ-000012; to STL). STL is a Chair in Applied Public Health funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in partnership with CIHR.

The funding sources had no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


  1. Adams, M. L., Jason, L. A., Pokorny, S., et al. (2009). The relationship between school policies and youth tobacco use. The Journal of School Health, 79(1), 17–23.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Boyce, J. C., Mueller, N. B., Hogan-Watts, M., et al. (2009). Evaluating the strength of school tobacco policies: the development of a practical rating system. The Journal of School Health, 79(10), 495–504.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Cancer Care Ontario, Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). (2012). Taking action to prevent chronic disease: recommendations for a healthier Ontario. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, pp. 1–104. Available at: Accessed July 5, 2017.
  4. Chassin, L., Presson, C. C., Sherman, S. J., et al. (1990). The natural history of cigarette smoking: predicting young-adult smoking outcomes from adolescent smoking patterns. Health Psychology, 9(6), 701.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cole, A. G., Kennedy, R. D., Chaurasia, A., et al. (2017). Exploring the predictive validity of the susceptibility to smoking construct for tobacco cigarettes, alternative tobacco products, and E-cigarettes. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 1–8.Google Scholar
  6. Coppo, A., Galanti, M. R., Giordano, L., et al. (2014). School policies for preventing smoking among young people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (10). Available at: Accessed July 8, 2016.
  7. Flay, B. R., & Petraitis, J. (1994). The theory of triadic influence: a new theory of health behavior with implications for preventive interventions. Advances in Medical Sociology, 4, 19–44.Google Scholar
  8. Galanti, M. R., Coppo, A., Jonsson, E., et al. (2014). Anti-tobacco policy in schools: upcoming preventive strategy or prevention myth? A review of 31 studies. Tobacco Control, 23(4), 295–301.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Guo, G., & Zhao, H. (2000). Multilevel modeling for binary data. Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 441–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Leatherdale, S. T. (2012). Evaluating school-based tobacco control programs and policies: an opportunity gained and many opportunities lost. The Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 24(3), 89–106.Google Scholar
  11. Leatherdale, S. T., Brown, K. S., Carson, V., et al. (2014). The COMPASS study: a longitudinal hierarchical research platform for evaluating natural experiments related to changes in school-level programs, policies and built environment resources. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 331.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Lovato, C. Y., Sabiston, C. M., Hadd, V., et al. (2006). The impact of school smoking policies and student perceptions of enforcement on school smoking prevalence and location of smoking. Health Education Research, 22(6), 782–793.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Nykiforuk, C. I. J., & University of Alberta, Centre for Health Promotion Studies. (2010). Smoke-free spaces: lessons from a better practices : review of a population health intervention. Edmonton: Centre for Health Promotion Studies, School of Public Health, University of Alberta.Google Scholar
  14. Pierce, J. P., Choi, W. S., Gilpin, E. A., et al. (1996). Validation of susceptibility as a predictor of which adolescents take up smoking in the United States. Health Psychology, 15(5), 355–361.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Pierce, J. P., White, V. M., & Emery, S. L. (2012). What public health strategies are needed to reduce smoking initiation? Tobacco Control, 21(2), 258–264.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Reid, J. L., Hammond, D., Rynard, V. L., et al. (2017). Tobacco use in Canada: patterns and trends, 2017 Edition. Waterloo, Ontario: Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo, pp. 1–112. Available at: Accessed June 19, 2017.
  17. Sabiston, C. M., Lovato, C. Y., Ahmed, R., et al. (2009). School smoking policy characteristics and individual perceptions of the school tobacco context: are they linked to students’ smoking status? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38(10), 1374–1387.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Stephens, Y. D., & English, G. (2002). A statewide school tobacco policy review: process, results, and implications. The Journal of School Health, 72(8), 334–338.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Watts, A. W., Lovato, C. Y., Card, A., et al. (2010). Do students’ perceptions of school smoking policies influence where students smoke?: Canada’s youth smoking survey. Cancer Causes Control, 21(12), 2085–2092.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Wong, S. L., Shields, M., Leatherdale, S., et al. (2012). Assessment of validity of self-reported smoking status. Health Reports, 23(1), 47–53.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Moores Cancer CenterUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.School of Public Health and Health SystemsUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations