Addressing the School E-Cigarette and Vaping Epidemic

The rise in vaping and e-cigarette use among students poses significant threats to their health and academic achievement, as well as puts a strain on school resources. The Marjory-Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) Public Safety Commission’s initial report highlighted that Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) had resorted to locking student restrooms on certain floors due to issues with vaping in restrooms.

The commission raised questions about whether the locked restrooms could have impacted the safety of students during the tragic shooting incident. Some students who were shot on the third floor attempted to seek refuge in locked restrooms but were unable to access them. This example shows how student vaping can create complications related to overall school security.

K-12 campus officials nationwide have reported various negative consequences of student e-cigarette use, including disruptions to classroom instruction, strain on available personnel, redirection of staff development time, and increased expenditures. These issues also place a burden on student assistance programs and result in medical emergencies.

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data administered by the CDC and FDA, the prevalence of e-cigarette use among students has been alarmingly high. In 2018, approximately 20.8% of high school students and 4.9% of middle school students were current e-cigarette users. The numbers increased even further in 2019, with 27.5% of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students reported as current users. The survey also revealed that a significant proportion of students had tried e-cigarettes at some point, further indicating the pervasiveness of the issue.

Addressing the problem of student vaping requires a combination of human interventions and technologies. Implementing school-wide policies and awareness campaigns, providing education on the risks and consequences of vaping, and enhancing enforcement measures can help deter students from engaging in this behavior. Additionally, the use of technology such as surveillance systems, vape detectors, and digital hall pass systems can assist in detecting and preventing vaping incidents, ultimately contributing to the overall well-being of students and preserving school resources.

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