Let’s Talk About Vaping in Schools

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Dall·e 2024 04 18 13.55.56 A High Resolution, Landscape Oriented Photograph Showing A Close Up Of Various Vape Devices, Each Representing A Different Colour And Design, Laid Out


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Should pupils be allowed to purchase vapes, and use them in school?

Ask any headteacher across England; besides funding, vaping is likely to be one of their current headaches!

No longer do students need to hide a ‘packet of fags’ or ‘light up’ in the toilets around the back of the sports hall; young people today can have a ‘quick puff’ on stairwells and on corridors between lessons. No matches, just a cloud of mist evaporating as quickly as it appeared!

Smoking laws across England

When the smoking age was increased from 16 to 18, the number of illicit cigarette consumption fell by 25% (Department of Health and Social Care, 2024).

This week in England, the current Prime Minister successfully had The Tobacco and Vapes Bill passed by 383 votes, making it the strictest smoking laws in the world. 67 MPs voted against it! I am sure there are lots of details on business, freedom, consent and so forth, but imagine not wanting to protect young people from smoking?

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (2022), “E-cigarette use was highest among those aged 16 to 24 years.” Further evidence presented at research briefings in parliament suggests “that 54% of young people aged 11 to 18 in England report having begun vaping “just to give it a try”.

Among 11-15 year olds 15% have ever tried vaping. If there are 8.8(ish) million pupils (DfE, 2023) in our schools, with ~3.6 million pupils in secondary school, ‘rough maths’ suggests there are 540,000 children who have tried vaping!

What is happening in English schools?

In our schools, some leadership teams now have to lock the toilets during lesson time, install CCTVs to monitor vaping, behaviour, safeguarding and vandalism.

TeacherTapp is a strong litmus test of what happens in our schools daily. Two-thirds of teachers reported encountering students vaping or in possession of vaping equipment; listen to co-founder Laura McInerney discuss the issue on the BBC. There are also lots of things online that you can do to help develop a school policy; I’m confident many people will have one already.

I do not know the societal solutions at large, but I do know what they are at a school level.

Remove communal areas behind closed doors and create open spaces with private cubicles. Add CCTV and vape sensors around the building and continue to ban all forms of smoking. Monitor anyone who uses it, exclude where necessary, and involve families, the police, and local services where the law has been broken.

Wider considerations

There are, of course, other things to consider that fall outside the remit of schools. For example:

  1. What are the legal implications, locally and nationally, specifically aimed at the educational institute?
  2. How can we gather better data on the health effects of vaping, especially for young people?
  3. What would a successful preventive programme to help reduce youth vaping?
  4. What international approaches are happening elsewhere that could be adapted in the UK?
  5. How can families and the wider community help reduce vaping among students?

How schools deal with these emerging trends in light of reducing budgets will remain a constant headache …

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