School Officials Struggle to Suppress Students’ Vaping

The numbers of teens vaping across America and at Central High School has exploded. Administrators are working to deter students from vaping, but they’re realistic about the effect they are having.

By Tre Johnson and Cameron Gygi

Central High School is struggling to curtail students’ use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices, but it is also continuing to explore ways to encourage students to adopt healthier habits.

The students’ vaping is part of a nation-wide trend, as students around the country have become addicted to the nicotine within the vapes and are suffering from health problems as a result. In America, roughly 28% of students have vaped in the past 30 days, according to The Real Cost, a website about students’ vaping. Vaping is linked to lung damage and can cause irreversible problems if it is not stopped before it gets out of control. Because of this, schools are trying to stop their students from vaping and protect them from the permanent damage that they are causing to themselves. The students are also vaping underage, which schools want to stop.

At Central, many students will go to the bathroom between classes or during classes to get a quick high from their e-cigarettes.  “[With] bathrooms we don’t know that we catch it the most, but we see it the most often,” said Randall Seales, assistant principal at Central. Recently, according to Wiredvape detectors have been made and been put up in schools around America to alert the office of when there are vape chemicals in the bathrooms. Central does not own such technology but the administration has been trying to make due with less technologically advanced methods. 

“We’ve been having security guards stand in the bathrooms between passing periods,” said Seales. “Then a group of guys will go in and realize, so they’ll act like they’re fixing their hair really quick or do something else and leave.” The administration knows that it happens there often and they know that it happens most often between passing periods, so they target the bathrooms because it is a quick way to cut back the amount of vaping. Bathrooms are not the only place where vaping happens, though. Another big spot is the courtyard, Seales said.

Its happening so often raises the question of how many people vape at Central High School. “I think about 25 to 30 percent of students vape daily here, and about 80 percent of the time, intermittently,” Seales said. “I think I catch it about 5 percent of the time that it happens here. So about three or four times a day.”

With kids doing it so often, health problems that go with it are sure to follow. “Health concerns are our biggest concern,” Seales said. “Students are making choices that will change their life forever, for just a few years of vaping.” Seales emphasized that the companies don’t care and are marketing to kids they know will get addicted.

“I think students shouldn’t do it because we don’t know enough about it,” said Shelly Wolfe, who teaches lifetime activities at Central High School. “I catch kids doing it everywhere. The lockers, the hallways, and even the gym.” Wolfe also said that she catches kids vaping weekly.

Is there a good way to cut back the amount of vaping that happens in the school? Wolfe is skeptical. “I don’t think there is really a sure way to cut back on it,” she said. “It’s just too easy to hide with how it doesn’t have much of a smell and doesn’t give off chemicals that can be easily detected. I think it comes down to the students deciding whether or not it is good for them.”

Central High School is aware of the extent of the vaping problem and is trying to put an end to it, not just for the learning environment of the school, but for the health and safety of the students.