High Schools Are Really Freaking Out About the Vape Teens

Image for article titled High Schools Are Really Freaking Out About the Vape Teens
Image: Associated Press

Adults are in a panic over teenage vaping, which admittedly is a problem. As a vaper myself, I do not recommend teens who have never smoked to pick up Juuling! A nicotine addiction is not a good thing! That said, teens love to vape—and the adults who run our nation’s high schools are coming up with some pretty eyebrow-raising ways to get kids to put down their Juuls.


The Washington Post reports that one school district in Nebraska is now resorting to subjecting middle and high schoolers who want to participate in extracurriculars to random nicotine testing, among other measures.

And they’re not the only ones. According to the Post, schools throughout the U.S. are now adding nicotine to the list of drugs that they test for:

Only about a dozen of the 100 school districts nationwide that contract with Sport Safe Testing Service tested for nicotine before vaping became so widespread, Chris Franz, one of the company’s owners, told the Journal Star. But many more have recently begun expressing interest.

Administrators in Fairbury aren’t the only ones hoping that the threat of random testing will make students think twice about taking a drag on an e-cigarette. In February, the Brock Independent School District in Brock, Tex., voted to add nicotine to the list of substances for which students in grades seven through 12 can be randomly tested. According to the school’s handbook, the policy applies to any students who request a parking permit, as well as any students who participate in extracurricular activities.

Due to a series of Supreme Court decisions, random drug testing of high school students is perfectly constitutional, despite being in my eyes a massive violation of privacy as well as a big downer. But drug testing isn’t all that school districts are trying to get teens to stop vaping. Schools across the country are installing vape detectors—devices similar to smoke alarms—in bathrooms, which can alert staff when students are vaping. Other schools are locking their bathroom doors, and at least one school made the news for removing its bathroom doors altogether.

Good luck in this futile endeavor!



I’m a high school teacher in Toronto and the vaping is pretty out of control in my school. While I absolutely don’t condone testing students, we are struggling with how best to convey that vaping indoors is inappropriate and bad for their health. It’s worrying to me that smoking was becoming a non-issue in schools for the past 10-15 years and now suddenly it’s back.

In addition to the health issues, our school has gender neutral bathrooms (yay!) and these have become popular hangout/vaping spots because a) it’s cold in Canada b) anyone can go in them together and b) the doors aren’t propped open for privacy reasons. The fallout from this is that the very people these bathrooms were intended for (LGBTQ students who don’t feel comfortable in the gendered washrooms) no longer feel comfortable going into the washrooms because of the smell, the loitering, etc.

My Gender Studies class (we have one of those too— yay!) launched a campaign to try to educate people in the school about this, but the vapers still feel totally entitled to taking over these spaces.

It’s a problem, and schools like mine are struggling with how to handle it.