Earlier this year, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland piloted the use of vaping detectors in the bathrooms at five high schools, MoCo 360 reported, but an op-ed in the student paper at Walt Whitman High School claims that won’t help.
“While the solution may seem promising, vape detectors will only highlight a more complex problem in high schools countywide — students’ complete disregard for MCPS rules,” writes Drake Poe in The Black and White. “Schools nationwide are facing an increasing discipline problem among students due to the pandemic. Schools must focus on testing and modifying their policies if they want students to listen.”
The detectors are generally installed above bathroom stalls and ping administrators when vaping is detected. We have documented the sharp increase in vaping among middle and high school students on these pages, but preventing it requires a multi-pronged approach, which can include detection technology and an increase in inspections of areas where vaping typically occurs.
But the multi-pronged solution can be more effective at reducing or preventing teen vaping if it includes additional steps aimed more at awareness and education and less at policy enforcement, such as:
- Comprehensive education programs that inform students about the risks and consequences of vaping can cover the health effects, addictive nature, and social implications of vaping. Information on available resources for students who want to quit vaping can also be openly provided.
- Peer education programs that train students to raise awareness among their peers about the dangers of vaping can be highly effective in influencing student behavior.
- Collaboration with parents and guardians can provide family members with resources and information to help them understand the risks of vaping. Open communication between parents, students, and school officials is key, not punishment.
- Nicotine addiction support programs provided by healthcare professionals and counselors can include counseling services, nicotine replacement therapies, and referral to specialized treatment centers if necessary.
- Activities that give students other things to do can give them an outlet for stress relief and socialization. Participation in sports, clubs, arts, and other extracurricular activities tends to promote a healthy lifestyle and positive peer interactions.
- Collaboration with other community members — health departments, law enforcement agencies, nonprofit organizations, etc. — can raise awareness about teen vaping, strengthen prevention initiatives, and provide additional resources and expertise.
- Information about vaping can be incorporated into the curriculum across various subjects, including science, health, and social studies. Such inclusion in multiple diverse formats can help students understand the risks of vaping more clearly.
Most importantly, as Drake suggests, monitoring any strategy’s effectiveness is necessary to ensure it’s working. The different aspects of any solution must be noted and analyzed, and the solution must be adjusted according to what the data shows.