TENNERTON – Smoking and using vapes are strictly prohibited within Upshur County schools and on school property. Over the summer break, some Upshur County schools received vape detectors to help monitor for vape use in areas that are difficult to monitor, such as restrooms.
Matthew Sisk, Upshur County Schools Director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said vape usage has increased steadily in both middle and high school every year since 2013-2014. He referred My Buckhannon to the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov, for information on vapes or e-cigarettes.
The CDC website notes that e-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol or mix of small particles in the air. Vapes come in many shapes and sizes, and some look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes, while others can resemble USB flash drives, pens or other everyday items. The site says e-cigarettes often contain nicotine and flavorings.
“Vape detectors are being placed in locations in the schools that are difficult to monitor for staff, such as in the bathrooms,” Sisk said. “The detectors detect vapor from e-cigarettes and have the ability to differentiate nicotine and THC. The vape detectors we have installed also have the ability to detect sudden increases in sound, potentially allowing school officials to respond to yelling in the bathrooms or fights in bathrooms.”
Matt Hamilton, system specialist with Electronic Specialty Company, installed the vape detectors in Upshur County schools during summer break. He said the nice thing about the detectors is their ability to detect more than just e-cigarettes.
“They can detect if there is a fight or very loud noises,” Hamilton said. “These detectors can be set up to send emails or text messages when there is vapor detected or loud noises so officials can check the restrooms. The detectors we are installing are the newest version, and they detect so many things.”
Hamilton said the vape detectors are a very good tool to have and said they are receiving many calls for the installation of detectors in schools.
Sisk and all school officials want to remind students, staff, parents and families that use of tobacco products, drugs and e-cigarettes of any type are prohibited in schools and on school property, including buses.
“All nicotine and drugs are prohibited substances on school property,” Sisk said. “Students are subject to the school’s policies if they are found in violation of these rules. The consequences vary from middle school to high school, but any students found in repeated violation will be subject to a citation from law enforcement.”
Sisk said he feels many people believe vaping is not harmful or is innocuous, especially in comparison to smoking.
“There is a lot of recent information being published regarding the physical dangers of vaping,” he said. “However, it is important to stress that the dangers of vaping go beyond the physical health components. The mental health side-effects of being addicted to nicotine are extremely harmful to our young people today. These dangers are very well documented through the fight against nicotine-related products for young people.”
Sisk said one of the main factors that make vapes harder to detect is their size.
“The small size makes it harder to notice and easier to pass from student to student,” he said. “Another factor is the low level or lack of smell. Smoking a cigarette leaves a pungent odor on the smoker, where vaping carries almost no smell.”
Aside from being prohibited, Sisk said he wants students, parents and families to realize that vapes can be addictive.
“I want families to know that vapes are addictive and, in many ways, more addictive than other nicotine products due to the high levels of nicotine in the products. I also want families to know that many of these devices can and do have other drugs in the device outside of nicotine,” he said.
The CDC website offers tips for talking with children and teens about why e-cigarettes and vaping are harmful and it suggests visiting www.smokefree.gov or calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help on quitting.