Home Community News Installing Detectors in Ontario Schools Is Not Enough to Stop Students From Vaping 

Installing Detectors in Ontario Schools Is Not Enough to Stop Students From Vaping 

It is not that difficult for students to disguise vaping at school, expert suggests.

by Mana Hosseini Mousa
An elementary school in the York Region with its playground in view
Students who try smoking for the first time are on average around 13 years old, according to a 2022 survey by Health Canada. (OTR/Mana Hosseini)

Ontario plans to install more vape detectors and security cameras in schools, but experts say that this effort must be accompanied by educational programs to effectively reduce vaping among students.  

Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce announced the plan in late March after the provincial government said it was investing $30 million over three years to enhance student safety and well-being. A 2022 Health Canada survey found that 29 per cent of students in grades 7 to 12 have ever tried vaping, with eight per cent of them vaping daily. 

Dr. Michael Chaiton, senior researcher with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said that the installation of this technology alone “is not addressing the actual causes of vaping itself. It’s addressing school orderliness. Targeting kids who are using it directly is not an effective way of actually reducing the problem.”

Vape detectors are similar to smoke detectors but they are “100 times more sensitive to smoke particles than a home smoke alarm,” says Kos Galatsis, a vape detector expert and chief executive officer of Forensics Detectors.“ That’s why it’s able to detect vape much earlier at a smaller concentration.” 

Galatsis, whose California-based company installs vape and gas detectors in schools and other establishments worldwide, said the devices are most effective in closed environments. “In some circumstances, there is a bathroom with big gaping holes to the outdoors, so there’s a lot of fresh air. In those situations, instead of one, you may need five [vape detectors] per bathroom,” he said in an interview. 

Elena, a Grade 8 student whose parents allowed her to speak to OTR on the condition that she not be identified, said her peers started vaping as early as Grade 6, adding that in the seventh grade, she could have purchased vapes for a “cheaper price” from a couple of students at her school.

Elena recalls a time when she was almost pressured into vaping while hanging out with friends in a bathroom. “My friend was like ‘Yo, you want to try? Don’t be a scaredy cat. It’s gonna be okay. Your dad’s not gonna find out…’ I was like it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to do it.” 

Ketan Khetpal, the store manager of Just Vape It on Mutual Street, said he turns away “around six to seven minors a week,” including some who come in with fake IDs. 

According to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, it is illegal to sell tobacco and vapour products to those under the age of 19.

Galatsis said students have found ways to vape in secret and disguise the smoke, even in closed areas equipped with vape detection technology. “There are filters that you blow into that take the smoke away,” noting that said devices can be purchased online. 

“You can [also] blow in the toilet while you’re flushing. Some students [even] try and blow in their backpacks which can leak, but could still absorb.”

Chaiton said vape detection technology needs to be accompanied by educational programs to prevent vaping and help students “stop or at least understand the consequences.” 

The Near North District School Board in northern Ontario deployed a similar approach in 2023, which has since yielded positive results.

Chaiton said that punishing kids who are caught vaping is “counterproductive.” Instead, he noted that “just the process of talking about [vaping], identifying and reflecting on it is sufficient” for most youth to stop vaping before they develop nicotine dependence. 

A 2023 study by researchers at Western University’s Faculty of Health Sciences found that learning about the health risks of vaping can encourage young users to rethink their habits.

“There’s lots of opportunity during that period of escalation where it’s relatively easy to stop vaping, easier than it will be in the future,” Chaiton added. “So most of the [apps and programs] that we’ve been putting out is based on that idea.”

Stop Vaping Challenge and CONNECT 5 are two cessation programs that operate by encouraging youth to reflect on their vaping habits, while CATCH My Breath works to prevent the spread of vaping among youths.

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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