Schools receive funding for vape detectors


Four public school districts and a charter school in Hamilton County have received funding to install vape detectors at middle and high schools.

Carmel, Noblesville, Sheridan and Westfield school districts, in addition to the Options Charter School in Westfield, were awarded a total of $27,000 in funding from the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs that will be used to install 25 vape detectors, said Monica Greer, executive director of the organization. Greer said schools have used funds for vape detectors placed at high schools but have also used their own funds to purchase additional detectors.

“E-cigarettes are the most used tobacco product among youth,” Greer said.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale, commonly referred to as vaping.

“Unfortunately, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and flavorings which are highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain. We believe the installation of vape detectors may help slow the use of vapes and provide a learning opportunity for the students using them,” Greer said.

Greer said the vape detectors are placed in school restrooms and work similar to smoke detectors. The detectors can differentiate between vaping, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects, and aerosols, like deodorant or cologne, students use to mask the smell of marijuana and scented vapes, according to Greer. When a detector picks up on a vapor it sends a text to school administrators identifying which bathroom it is in, she added.

In 2020, Noblesville Schools installed vape detectors at East and West middle schools and at Noblesville HIgh School. Carmel Clay Schools plans to pilot movable detectors at secondary schools that sense chemicals released by vaping and alert school administrators and school resource officers by text or email when activated.
Officials with CCS said earlier this year that the detectors won’t replace physical supervision but will help monitor areas where students tend to vape such as bathrooms and locker rooms. The Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs, the Hamilton County Health Dept. and Breathe Easy Hamilton County have developed a vape-free task force this year that meets with school leaders on a quarterly basis to strategize and share ideas, according to Greer.

Treatment providers are also included in the meetings to help develop protocols and intervention ideas, officials said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development that continues into the early to mid-20s.

But Greer said her organization is working with local schools in Hamilton County to curb vaping among students.
“Scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes,” she said. “In the meantime, we’re happy to support Hamilton County schools in their efforts to limit the use of e-cigarettes in an effort to prevent a lifelong addiction to tobacco and other drugs.”