As the numbers of middle and high school students who vape continue to rise — the US Food and Drug Administration says more than 20% of highschoolers use e-cigarettes — school districts around the country are starting to fight back.
The sensor devices, which resembled smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, can detect vaping in places such as bathrooms or closets — the kind of places where kids have tried to smoke for decades.
Some are even equipped to detect THC oil, a compound found in marijuana, and pick up sound abnormalities like shouting, which could be helpful in preventing bullying.
Once detected, a notification is sent to administrators, who can then step in and stop the culprit. One video, created by FlySense, even shows how school officials can track data related to vape detection.
Here’s how some schools around the United States are employing the new technology.
Ten school districts in New Jersey have already implemented vaping detectors in schools, with more sending in requests, according to CNN affilliate WLNY.
One such district is the Sparta Township School District.
Superintendent Michael Rossi Jr. told CNN that it has installed two vape detectors in Sparta High School, set to be fully functional later in the month. The district is also planning on installing detectors in the middle school and are planning on using them across the school campuses, not just in bathrooms.
These aren’t the only measures the district has taken to curb vaping among students. Rossi said these efforts were part of larger educational programs for both students and parents.
As far as removing bathroom stall doors, as one Alabama school has done, Rossi said they wouldn’t go that far.
“This is not a gotcha-type thing,” he said. “It’s an educational, restorative and holistic response. We’re not looking to punish people.”
Revere Local School District has installed 16 vape detectors at Revere High School and Revere Middle School, the district announced earlier this month.
The detectors were purchased through a state grant, and anyone caught using (or selling, or buying) vapes could be suspended.
Jennifer Reece, a spokeswoman for the district, told CNN she didn’t think the district had any more of a problem with vaping than other schools, but they’d been discussing the issue for a while.
“We decided it was probably important to do more than just talk about it,” she said. “[We] thought that we need to take more action.”
Olentangy Local School District has also attempted to crack down on vaping with detectors. Though a call from CNN was not immediately returned, CNN affilliate WBNS reported that the district is hoping to install vaping detectors in high school bathrooms, a project they’re hoping to complete by Thanksgiving.
Students caught will also face suspension, a sentence that could be reduced if the student meets with a certified chemical dependency counselor, WBNS reported.
High schools in Chicago suburbs have also installed vaping detectors, including Hinsdale Central High School, Hinsdale South High Schools and Evanston Township High School, CNN affiliate WGN reported last month.
One of six US deaths from a severe lung illness possibly linked to vaping occurred in Illinois.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with using e-cigarettes as of last week. Illinois has seen 42 cases of respiratory illness linked to vaping in the last 90 days.
A crackdown as attention rises
Six people in the US have died from lung disease related to vaping, and there have been more than 450 possible cases of lung illness related to the practice, too.
Last month, an 18-year-old from Illinois was hospitalized with a serve pulmonary illness after using e-cigarettes for almost two years. His lungs were similar to those of a 70-year-old adult, his doctors said.
This week, President Donald Trump’s administration moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which are popular with young people.
“A lot of people think vaping is wonderful,” Trump said. “It’s really not wonderful. It’s got big problems.”
First lady Melania Trump, whose “Be Best” platform focuses in part on children’s health and combating addiction, has also spoken out more than once over her concerns over e-cigarette use by children.
“I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children. We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth,” she tweeted earlier this week.