Discipline For Student Possession of Nicotine or Tobacco


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Last Updated on August 20, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Talk to many in our culture today about nicotine or vaping products and the public schools and you may hear:  “So what, the kid’s smoking, isn’t that something every teen does?”  Not really, and if a student uses or possesses nicotine, vaping or e-cigarette products, they should not have them at school or they could face school discipline. 

Tobacco, vapes, e-cigarettes or similar products cannot be stashed for a friend, thrown in a student backpack to use later, chewed, smoked, or otherwise used at school, at school events, going to or coming from school, etc.  If they are, and a student is caught, the student can be suspended or even expelled.

Education Code Prohibits Tobacco and Nicotine Products

Per the California Education Code, which outlines all bases for suspension and expulsion of students, one basis for discipline is:

A pupil shall not be suspended from school or recommended for expulsion, unless the superintendent of the school district or the principal of the school in which the pupil is enrolled determines that the pupil has…

(h) Possessed or used tobacco, or products containing tobacco or nicotine products, including, but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, miniature cigars, clove cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, chew packets, and betel*… [Education Code section 48900(h)]

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E-cigarettes and Vape Pens Prohibited

This code also encompasses student possession or use of e-cigarettes and vape pens, and things which may fit under the “nicotine” or nicotine-like umbrella.  This suspension and expulsion code states that the list is not exclusive “including, but not limited to…” This means it is a wide-open code and will allow a school suspension or expulsion for many products not listed.

Suspension or Expulsion for Possession or Use

The California legislature allows students to be removed from school and their records tarnished for simple possession or use of nicotine-type products.  The kid in the back of a class with that bottle full of brown liquid (spit from chew products) can be in serious trouble.  Or that kid with that “cool” vape pen could have his/her college entrance chances diminished if a suspension issues.  

If a student is up for suspension or expulsion for having a clove cigarette, some chew, or a vape pen, alternatives to school suspension should be attempted first if the offense is non-dangerous and is their first of the year (see Ed Code 48900.5).  

Have you checked your kids’ backpack or pockets today to ensure none of these prohibited items are lurking in there?  If not, the next person who may tell you they are, could be the school principal, and no one wants that.

* Betel: “an Asian plant that has leaves and red nuts that act as a drug when chewed” [per the Cambridge Dictionary


Student expulsion attorney Michelle Ball helps students when they are in discipline trouble in public or private schools and colleges. As a Sacramento suspension lawyer for students she assists parents across California, including in Carmichael, Folsom, Sausalito, Solvang, Ventura and many other California cities.