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How to Stop Vaping in Schools

March 20, 2024
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It’s easy to overlook the “health” part when discussing the health and safety of the students in our schools.

As a teacher or administrator, you are responsible for your students' learning. But you are also responsible for creating a learning environment where students feel challenged, engaged, and safe. But what if an unseen health threat negatively affects this environment? 

A threat that is easily concealed, easily exchanged, and unfortunately, easily obtained. One that is marketed to teens and according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, may be just as addictive as heroin or cocaine. 

Chronic lung disease, asthma, and even heart attacks are the possible results of prolonged use of this product. It is known by a multitude of names: e-cigs, vapes, e-hookahs, Juuls, mods, tanks, and more. For our purposes today, we will refer to it as simply “vaping” or “vapes”. 

With its colorful designs and enticing flavors, vaping has become enormously popular amongst teens and has become a serious issue for schools.

Why We Need to Stop Vaping in Schools

The routineness of vaping in schools has become alarming. It’s being driven by a perfect storm of factors. Chiefly among them is nicotine, which is present in many vaping products, hooks students early, and just like in cigarettes it is extremely addictive to users.

Peer pressure amplifies the problem, with teens feeling compelled to vape to fit in with their peers. Peer pressure is nothing new to educators, but it is uniquely tough to deal with now thanks to social media.

Vape users on social media tend to glamourize its use in the same way that previous generations attempted to look “cool” by smoking cigarettes. Marketing campaigns exacerbate this pressure, glamorizing vaping as a trendy and harmless activity.

This is why many students lack awareness of the serious health risks associated with vaping. They may not even realize that e-cigarettes can contain harmful chemicals. Compounding these issues is the accessibility and concealability of vaping devices. 

With sleek designs resembling USB drives and pens, these products are easily obtained and can be discreetly used even within school premises. But even as they get harder to detect, states are introducing legislation that puts the responsibility on schools to stop vaping.

How Often Are Students Vaping in Schools?

The vaping statistics in schools amongst students are nothing short of staggering.  

According to the CDC, in 2022, about 1 in 10 or 2.55 million U.S. middle and high school students vaped at least once in the past 30 days. That same study found that two-thirds of those students reported that they wanted to quit vaping but couldn’t.

When it comes to preventing vaping in schools, we are going to need our educators to be just as creative as the vape companies who have hooked our students. Vape flavors, as we mentioned before, are designed to be enticing to young customers. 

That’s why they the most popular flavors are candy, sweets, and fruit. There is a reason that cigarette and tobacco companies are heavily regulated when it comes to advertising. 

It’s misleading to the public and these products don’t come without risk, no matter how harmless the packaging may make them appear.

What Are the Health Risks of Vaping for Teens?

This widespread use of vaping devices among adolescents is not without consequences. The American Heart Association has found that the use of vapes is associated with: 

  • Higher rates of wheezing and cough
  • Greater prevalence of asthma
  • Increased incidence of respiratory disease

The physical health effects are substantial, but what could be even more concerning are the mental health risks. Students who become addicted can experience nicotine withdrawal when they try to stop or have a prolonged break from the drug. 

That withdrawal manifests itself as stress with the following side effects: 

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Problems concentrating

This is only compounded by the fact that many students begin using these products as a means to relieve stress. 

Where Are Students Vaping in Schools?

Students are vaping in schools in various locations, presenting significant challenges for monitoring and prevention efforts. 

One of the most common places where vaping occurs is in school bathrooms. The privacy afforded by bathroom stalls makes it easy for students to discreetly vape without detection. 

This is often a social gathering as multiple students obtain a hall pass before meeting in the restroom. This phenomenon has led schools to search for solutions that include features like encounter prevention.

Students may vape in secluded areas of the campus, such as behind portable buildings or athletic facilities. These hidden spots provide students with a sense of privacy and security, enabling them to indulge away from the watchful eyes of teachers and administrators.

Monitoring and preventing vaping in these spaces present considerable challenges for school staff. The sheer size of school campuses and the multitude of potential vaping locations make it difficult to effectively patrol and enforce anti-vaping policies. 

The discrete nature of vaping devices, which often resemble everyday items like USB drives, also makes it very difficult to confiscate these devices once they are in the building. 

3 Ways to Stop Vaping in Schools

However, schools are starting to improve this situation as the FDA recently reported a decrease in tobacco use amongst high schoolers. But this isn’t something that can be solved with a magic wand. It takes a comprehensive approach that includes:

Education and Prevention Programs 

Programs to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping among students. Provide access to resources such as posters, presentations, workshops, and other education resources for vaping.

These materials need to be used with fidelity and should be displayed in areas that are common hotspots on your campus for vapers. Organizations like the American Lung Association offer educational resources for schools that are great for schools.

Technology Supporting Policies and Regulations

Utilize technology, such as vape detectors, to support and enforce school policies and regulations regarding vaping. Vape detectors are increasingly being installed in schools to detect vaping activity and discourage students from vaping on campus. 

However, while these detectors can serve as a deterrent, they have limitations. They’re primarily designed to detect the vapor produced by e-cigarettes, but students may use devices that produce minimal vapor or emit no detectable odor, making them difficult to detect. 

Support Services for Students

Schools should provide access to counseling, support groups, and other programs to help students quit vaping. Organizations like the Truth Initiative offer resources and support for teens looking to quit vaping, including quit-vaping apps and text message support programs.

How Staff Can Stop Vaping in Schools

From a policy and procedure standpoint, awareness, deterrence, and response are a good place to begin your school's plan to stop vaping in schools. But there is more we can do as educators to score a victory over student vaping.

What Can Principals Do to Stop Vaping in Schools?

Principals wield an exceptional amount of influence on how policies are perceived and implemented within their buildings. Here are two ways principals can help stop vaping on their campuses:

  1. Educate Staff and Students: Train staff to recognize vaping signs. Establish clear policies with clear consequences. Then consistently enforce those policies.
  1. Promote Communication: Encourage open dialogue about vaping risks. Provide support and resources for students that are willing to discuss the issue.

What Can Teachers Do to Stop Vaping in Schools?

Teachers have an enormous amount on their plates. The pressure is real and they simply can’t add any additional responsibilities on top of their teaching loads. So let’s focus on ways teachers can prevent vaping while still focusing on teaching.

  1. Incorporate Education into Lessons: Integrate discussions about the dangers of vaping into the existing curriculum. That allows teachers to use educational materials to inform students during class time.
  1. Establish Clear Classroom Policies: Set explicit rules against vaping and communicate consequences consistently. Emphasize that these are schoolwide expectations and they extend to hall pass use.

The Real Solution to Stop Vaping in Schools

Technological advances in vape-related products have presented us with a unique problem to solve. However, technological advances in the classroom have created a unique solution to that same problem. Enter SmartPass.

SmartPass tackles the most common prevalence of vaping behavior—vaping as a social function that occurs outside of the classroom. Because the real issue here isn’t the flavors of the vapes or the shape of the devices. 

The real problem is that our students aren’t in class. Students have been skipping classes since schools were built –  the difference now is that technology aids the communication and logistics of those meetups. 

What if instead of focusing on the device…we focus on preventing the situation where it is used the most frequently? SmartPass monitors high flier hall pass usage, denying passes when known individuals attempt to congregate. 

So you know where your students are and when it’s safe to issue hall passes - and when it isn’t. By leveraging technology to track and limit hall pass abuse and vaping encounters, SmartPass has established itself as a critical tool for helping to stop vaping in schools. See SmartPass in action today!

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