Utah school districts install vape detectors following related illnesses

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Utah is the latest state whose school districts are taking a zero tolerance stance on vaping at school.

Following a string vaping incidents, illnesses and even deaths in teens, vaping has been at the center of controversy for months, with many health organizations urging students to no longer use vaping products.

To enforce the ban, school districts have installed specialized detectors in school bathrooms. The detectors are able to sense cigarette smoke and vapor from vapes. They are reportedly able to detect excess noise that might indicate fighting or bullying. When detection is made, a notification is sent to school administrators who can step in immediately.

“This was driven by our parent groups coming to us wanting us to do something,” Wasatch High School Assistant Principal Adam Hagen told 2 KUTV. “We were seeing an escalation in the number of vape cases.”

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, more than 20% of high school students are using vape products with the first reports of illness due to vaping beginning around March. Since then, at least 1,000 illnesses due to vaping have been reported and 18 people have died.

Research is being done to determine what exactly is causing illnesses and deaths but many health officials believe it may be due to the heavy metals used for the heating coils in some vapes. Additionally, contaminants have been found in vapes that could contribute to illness, including Vitamin E Acetate. It’s also been noted that illicit market vape products are more likely to cause harm than legal vape products.

Here is a rundown of the districts that have installed vape detectors and some early results according to 2 KUTV:

  • Wasatch School District spent nearly $40,000 to install 40 sensors. They installed them in every bathroom of the district’s one bathroom and two middle schools. So far, at least 20 students have been suspended after getting caught vaping.
  • Nebo School District purchased two detectors to use in a pilot program. So far, the sensors have not picked anything up.
  • Grand School District spent more than $7,000 on sensors that were installed in April. So far, the district reports that the sensors have not actually worked. Administrators also said that two vapes were found at a school, both of which reportedly contained meth.

Other School Districts across the country have also recently installed vape detectors including districts in New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts.

“We had some pretty traumatic experiences last year in which two students were ambulanced to the hospital for some sort of vaping or activity that led to that. It kind of brought a heightened sense of awareness to things,” said Principal Derek Morrison of Chicopee Comprehensive High School in Massachusetts.

President Donald Trump’s administration made a move last month to ban flavored e-cigarettes which tend to be popular among youth. First Lady, Melania Trump, also spoke out about her concerns on children having access to e-cigarettes.

“I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children,” she tweeted last month. “We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”  

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