Vape sensors order, to be added soon

New vape sensors to be added at OPHS.

Oliva Buccieri - Talon
Confiscated Vaping Equipment

Vape sensors were ordered by Oak Park High School administration in order to reduce underage vaping on campus and will soon be installed around campus.

The sensors are part of an ongoing campaign to address this growing issue.

“We’re in the process [of installing them] now, [however] we ordered them as of a couple days ago,” Buchanan said. “We’ve discovered that we have a pretty large scale vaping problem in our school.”

Administrators have been alerted to the issue many different ways.

“I have [personally] seen students vaping, and I’m getting a lot of reports that our students are vaping,” Buchanan said.

Vaping devices are becoming more discreet and are therefore more difficult to detect.

“I am shocked at the level of sophistication of vaping of these devices. They look like i-Pods and flash drives, and it’s scary to me that students think it’s not like a cigarette, because it looks and smells better,” English teacher Jan Willis said.

While nicotine isnt always ingested when vaping, a 2017 study by JAMA Pediatrics, of 181 Los Angeles adolescents, shows that vaping leads to nicotine addiction in teens and even to traditional cigarette addiction.  Teachers and administration worry that kids arent aware of the dangers.

“But an addiction to nicotine is probably one of the worst addictions you can have, and it will just lead to suffering later in life,” Willis said.

Due to the gravity of the vaping situation, being caught with vape paraphernalia on campus will result in punishment.

“[The punishment is] suspension, or expulsion, depending on the situation. Nicotine is illegal, and you need to be 21 to have [it]. Nicotine is highly addictive, so vaping is a gateway to nicotine addiction,” Buchanan said.

Oak Park is taking steps to prevent vaping on campus — adding vaping sensors as well as changing the policy in the student handbook to become more specific about vape.

“We are changing the policy, [and] we will include vaping in the handbook. We will change the policy on possession and use of certain substances in the school. It already includes vaping in terms of tobacco use, but we will specifically identify E-cigarettes, vaping, and all the devices that allow kids to be able to do that,” Buchanan said.

Additionally, Oak Park is educating parents and Oak Park faculty on vaping devices and health hazards.

“I prepared a presentation along with passing out examples of devices being used to vape along with information on the health impact of it. Much of the information was to help teachers to know what to look out for and to be vigilant,” Buchanan said. “I also outlined a kind of three step action plan to deter vaping on campus. To detect it, deter it and to educate our parents, students and teachers on the effects of it.”  

Oak Park has also invited Dr. Victor DeNoble to address the student body on Friday, Feb. 23 at 2:25 in G9 about vaping and nicotine addiction.

Student leaders will also represent Oak Park during a conference to address addiction and nicotine.

We are going to take a group to this Kickash’ conference on [Feb.] 22, and we are looking for a member from ASB, the Talon, Advanced Peer Counseling and Safe School Ambassadors,” Buchanan said. “This group of student leaders can help us fight vape.

Finally, the administration is distributing information about the dangers of vaping.

“I’m looking at a lot of different resources, like posters, flyers and pamphlets for parents and students. There is a lot of different material out there on how to help kids with this problem,” Buchanan said

While vaping is a serious issue on campus, administrators believe it can be resolved and have not begun to conduct searches, such as other schools.

“We have heard about schools that do random searches for things like contraband. I don’t think we are there yet, although we might be,” Buchanan said.

If the issues of vaping are not soon resolved, the high school will have to take more steps.

“Another thing were looking at is whether or not we will allow students to hang out in their cars during lunch,” Buchanan said. If we find that vaping is going on in the cars, then we’ll end that and we’ll bring the kids back because it’s very difficult to supervise out there. We’ve walked through the parking lots a few times at lunch and we don’t feel it’s necessary just yet, but it’s not off the table.”

There are rumors that kids have vaped during class.

“I have had reports from parents and some students have said that it has happened. I don’t believe that it’s extremely common,” Buchanan said. “I think once in a while a kid who really wants to show off will do it to show how brazen they are. I believe it probably happened, but I don’t have any hard evidence, just reports.”

According to Buchanan, Oak Park faculty and the district as a whole are taking a very aggressive stance towards vaping by working with local vape shops and the sheriff’s dept.

“We’re going to notify the parents, raise awareness with teachers, parents, [and the] district at large. I’ve already visited the local vape shops and informed them and put them on notice. I’ve already heard that they’re selling vape to our kids and that’s illegal,” Buchanan said. “We’ve also notified the sheriff, and [by vaping, students] are breaking the law. We’re going to work with our canine. And, we’re going to detect, deter and enlighten our community about the dangers of vaping. Not only the dangers of nicotine addictions but the other carcinogens that are in the vape.”