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    February 2020

    Vaping and E-Cigarettes in the Classroom: What Does Your Policy Say?

    Vaping, the inhaling and exhaling of vapor from a device such as an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette), increased among middle and high school students. In fact, many students are vaping during class, a trend facilitated by vape pens created to look like common devices such as USB drives.

    In addition to nicotine-based products, some students may vape marijuana’s potent chemical, THC. While most students don’t perceive vaping as harmful, science says otherwise. Moreover, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is stepping up efforts to keep vaping devices out of children’s hands and now bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. Your school may be required under the law to prevent use and should consider these steps for curbing vaping. 

    • Educate students, parents, and teachers. Because many vaping “juices” (the liquid that is vaporized and inhaled) only contain flavoring and not nicotine, many parents and students see the practice as harmless, despite well-publicized incidents of lung injury. One study noted, however, noted that the vapor from e-cigarettes often contains the same toxic metals, such as lead, found in traditional cigarettes.

      If you haven’t already, consider holding educational sessions for students and parents about the dangers of vaping. Train teachers on vaping dangers, how to spot vaping in school (especially in the classroom), and provide a curriculum for educating students. It is also important to keep up with vaping trends so teachers and administrators know how to identify these new, disposable devices and other changes in how the vapor is delivered.
    • Review and update your policy on tobacco and drug use. Some schools take a hard line on tobacco and drug use. Others seek to provide student support. Review your policy’s intent to ensure the language aligns with your school’s culture and practices. For example, some schools that discover students using nicotine or THC steer students to smoking cessation and drug education programs rather than simple rather than simple discipline.

      Consider whether your policy classifies vaping devices as drug paraphernalia. For example, the Taft School policy (see page 16) classifies all “vaporizers” as drug paraphernalia and imposes discipline.

      When reviewing your policy, consider the model campus tobacco policies the American Lung Association and the state of Minnesota use to address vaping and e-cigarettes.

    • Take physical steps to discourage vaping. Look for ways beyond your policy to reduce the practice, including banning USB drives, installing vaping detectors in bathrooms, and limiting bathroom access.

    Vaping may be here to stay, but your efforts can curb usage, keep students focused in class, and make parents aware of the dangers.


    Minnesota Department of Health: School E-Cigarette Toolkit
    American Academy of Pediatrics: Recommendations on Tobacco and E-Cigarettes
    American Academy of Pediatrics: Vaping, JUUL, and E-Cigarettes Presentation Toolkit
    U.S. Surgeon General: Fact Page on E-Cigarettes
    Grant County Health District: Vaping Education Resources
    Illinois Poison Center: E-Cigarettes and Vaping Education Resources

    By Heather Salko, senior risk management counsel


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