There are many different vape detector makes and models on the market and updates are enhancing vape detector capabilities.
In December 2018, the US surgeon general declared youth vaping an epidemic as teen vaping reached alarming rates.1 The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the CDC revealed that about one quarter of high school students currently use vapes.2 Public health officials and legislators are working diligently to address the youth vaping epidemic, but without a comprehensive prevention plan these efforts can fall flat.
Communities and schools are looking for immediate action to combat vaping on school property as school grounds have become a hotspot for youth vaping. Several districts across the country are using vape detectors as part of their prevention efforts. Vape detectors are a technology designed to detect vaping and can go places cameras cannot, such as locker rooms and bathrooms -- common vaping hotspots. Even with this new technology in place, it is unclear whether teens will be deterred from vaping or determined to find another way.
Schools across the country are invested in the fight against youth vaping but will vape detectors be enough?
What are vape detectors?
Vape detectors are a technology that gained popularity in late 2019 as youth vaping rates grew to an all-time high. What started as an innovative way to fight bullying in unmonitored areas in schools quickly evolved to fight youth vaping when tech companies saw that need. Vape detectors are designed to detect chemical changes in the atmosphere and alert the school security system when triggered.
The HALO IOT Smart Sensor, for example, lists on its website that it has capabilities to detect air quality changes and changes in temperature and humidity. Company president David Antar says that the HALO Smart Sensor is one of the only devices that can detect a difference between nicotine and THC smoke.
These devices can cost upwards of $1000 dollars each, so it is important to do your research before investing in a piece of equipment that could cost your school thousands. And the question remains- will this be a successful prevention effort in your school?
Will vape detectors help my anti-vaping prevention efforts?
Even after implementation, schools may find that students are still finding ways to vape on school property. In a report from CBS New York, a recent high school graduate is not convinced vape detectors will work, stating, “I think [students] might find a different place in the school to vape.” Another report from WGN9 Chicago revealed that some models have had several false alarms causing one school in Illinois to remove their recently installed vape detectors altogether. One thing is certain- vape detectors or not, teens will still try to find ways to vape in schools.
Indeed, an article from WIRED revealed that students are finding creative ways to get around vape detectors. Some students find ways to dissipate the smoke before it reaches the detector, like flushing the smoke down the toilet or puffing the vapor into their clothing. Other students have resorted to simply ripping detectors off the walls – a very costly risk for schools. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a developmental psychologist at Stanford who studies teen vaping told WIRED that “if the goal is to prevent and stop [teens from vaping], vape detectors are not the way to go.” When it comes to effective prevention, “policing student behavior isn’t the same as permanently changing it.” You need an educational component in order to ensure impactful prevention. Well said, WIRED, well said.
What prevention efforts are missing?
Schools should arm themselves with several anti-vaping prevention efforts. This includes updated anti-vaping school policy, environmental changes, and most importantly, an educational component.
Updating your schools anti-vaping policy is critical so that students know exactly what is expected of them. Policy should include a comprehensive list of tobacco products that are prohibited, and guidelines should be clear so that faculty are uniform in their discipline. The Atlanta Public Schools district in Georgia told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that they are set to revise their drug and alcohol policy to specifically include vaping and other emerging tobacco products.
Environmental changes can assist you in your efforts. One school in Los Angeles took a proactive approach by sending faculty to local gas stations, grocery stores, and convenience stores to ask that they support their anti-vaping efforts by refusing to sell to minors.
Education is key to teaching teens about the risks of vaping so that they can be informed and decide for themselves not to vape. The National Medical Director for Clinical Diagnostics at the American Addiction Centers, Marc Calarco, told Insider that “if you just try to suppress [teen] behavior rather than educating them, I don't think it will be very successful based on what we've seen historically,” he added, “young people need to be educated that vaping may not be a safer alternative to cigarette smoking."
Experts agree that these three components are vital to holistic prevention and no component can stand alone without the others. You can visualize prevention efforts as a three-legged stool. Without all three -- updated policy, environment changes, and educational efforts -- you may find that stand alone anti-vaping prevention efforts are unsuccessful. Before you invest in vape detectors for your school, determine how you will equally support other areas of prevention.
- Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH. (2018, December 18). Surgeon General releases advisory on E-cigarette epidemic among youth. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from HHS.gov website: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/12/18/surgeon-general-releases-advisory-e-cigarette-epidemic-among-youth.html#
- Cullen KA, Gentzke AS, Sawdey MD, et al. e-Cigarette Use Among Youth in the United States, 2019. JAMA. 2019;322(21):2095–2103. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2019.18387