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Utah school fights vaping epidemic with new technology

Wasatch High School has installed 19 vape detectors throughout their building this year. (PHOTO: Courtesy of the Wasatch School District)

HEBER CITY, Utah — The Wasatch County School District is at the forefront of combating teen vaping with new technology.

Since the first day of school at Wasatch High, the district has enforced anti-vaping activities, which includes the D.A.R.E. curriculum.

Perhaps most cutting-edge is the implementation of vape detectors in school bathrooms and locker rooms. The school installed nineteen detectors over the summer and has already seen an impact.

“Every week since the beginning of school we’ve seen a slow decline in the vape detectors being sent off,” Assistant Principal Ryan Bishop said.

Unlike smoke detectors, these devices remain silent while being sent off.

“If you were sitting under it with an e-cigarette product and it went off, you wouldn’t know it,” said Bishop.

Instead, the detector automatically sends a notification to school administration when it senses vape smoke.

The school has a zero-tolerance vaping policy and students in violation face possible suspension.

“We’ve had fifteen to twenty suspensions related to vaping,” he said. “That might not all have come from the detectors.”

Bishop says they encourage students to say something if they see something.

The vape detector technology is relatively new and the decision to place them inside bathrooms and locker rooms was based off feedback school officials received from students and parents about popular spots for individuals to use vaping products.

According to a University of Michigan study, nationally it’s now 1 in 4 high school seniors and 1 in 5 sophomores who reported using e-cigarettes this year.

The Utah Department of Health released numbers on Monday reporting 47 cases of severe lung disease associated with vaping nicotine, THC, or both. The department says an additional 22 potential cases are being investigated.