Vaping in Schools: How to Combat the Epidemic

by Fraser Saunders

Although schools are largely recovered from the effects of lockdowns, there is still an ongoing epidemic that continues to be top of mind for educational leaders: student vaping.

Student vaping (including e-cigarettes) is a topic that has dominated news headlines for the last few years. Despite many of the efforts, the issue hasn’t gone away. The latest figures from ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) report that 11.2 per cent of 11- to 17-year-olds in the UK tried vaping in 2021, with this rising to a third of 18-year-olds.

While there are clear health implications for students who choose to vape, the decision to do so at school also impacts fellow students and staff. This is especially true when done in areas like toilets and changing rooms where there isn’t proper circulation or air filtering.

A clear step in the right direction is education on the effects of vaping. However, prevention is crucial for improving student and staff health and safety alike.


The Challenges of Vape Detection

One of the most significant challenges for schools dealing with student vaping is that it’s challenging to detect. Without evidence, or even the ability to know it’s happening in the first place, it’s difficult to know which students were involved. In some instances, this can even lead to a wrongful accusation.

Why Vaping is Hard to Detect

Unlike cigarettes and marijuana, which have distinct smells that are easy to identify, vaping is more difficult to associate with a scent. Products are available in a wide range of flavours, including ones that are unscented.

Students have also become accustomed to hiding their vaping while at school, reducing the noticeability of vape clouds (the voluminous amounts of vapour exhaled) or smoking in areas like toilets and changing rooms.

While these efforts can make it challenging to identify student vaping, what doesn’t change is the impact exhaled vapour has on the breakdown of chemicals present in the air at a given time.

These chemicals include nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerol, which contribute to increases in total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), as well as increases in particulate matter and other cancer-causing chemicals.


Detecting Student Vaping with Data

While it’s impossible to notice these chemical compounds with the naked eye, they can be detected and measured using sensor-based devices.

Using sensors for measuring levels of TVOCs, PM2.5 and a range of other environmental changes, you can begin to detect when vaping occurs and have data to associate with the incident to take preventative action.

Our SV11 Environmental Sensor detects meaningful changes in the environment instantly. With the SV11, schools can leverage sensor-based data to monitor vaping without being present while still understanding what occurred and what next steps need to be taken.

How it Works

As vaping occurs, users can see spikes in the Vape Index, which measures against a range of different onboard sensors to identify the likelihood of vaping or smoking occurring on a scale of 1 to 100.

You can set custom thresholds to receive real-time alerts via SMS and email. When detected, an alert can also be sent to pre-selected staff members, allowing a quick response.

All sensor data is accessible from our Command platform and is shown against a timeline to give a complete view of when these events took place. Additionally, our cameras can be paired with any sensor, providing a layer of visual evidence to see exactly what happened.

For locations like toilets and changing rooms, cameras can be placed outside these private areas, giving administrators a non-invasive way to monitor these incidents. At the same time, they also have the footage they need to identify the offending student and take action.

Insights Beyond Vaping

While there are clear benefits for detecting vaping in schools, the additional onboard detectors make our environmental sensors a powerful tool across your site. Sensor readings include:

  • Air Quality Index (AQI)
  • Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM 2.5)
  • Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOCs)
  • Temperature
  • Relative Humidity
  • Vaping and Smoking
  • Noise Levels
  • Motion Detection

Additional Sensor Use Cases in Schools

  • Bullying and Fighting: Use noise detection to monitor for levels that may indicate yelling or shouting is happening.
  • Cleaning: Ensure areas are appropriately sanitized by measuring TVOC levels for cleaning products across high-traffic areas.
  • Server Rooms: Protect server equipment from potential damage or loss by monitoring for temperature changes.
  • Food Storage: Reduce the loss of spoiled food by ensuring dry and refrigerated food storage areas are at safe temperature and humidity levels.

If you’re interested in learning more about how our SV11 Environmental Sensor can help your school protect against vaping, speak to our team today for a demonstration and to arrange a 30-day free trial. We can also show how security cameras and access controls can be paired with these sensors to give you holistic security across your school network.

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