Students vape in plain sight

Despite risks, students vape during school hours


Vaping has found its way into school bathrooms, the lunchroom, and even classrooms. Because most vapes are odorless, it makes catching students in the act extremely difficult.

“It’s pretty common to see students vape during class,” senior Grace Hartigan said. “Not a day goes by when I don’t see someone doing it.”

Although odorless, vapes do produce a smoke-like vapor. In order to vape during school, students simply release the vape into their shirts, where it dissipates undetected.

Other than covering the smoke with their shirts, students hide the vape pens in many different ways, such as in shirts sleeves, shoes, or wherever the pen will fit.

“When you see someone with a long sleeve shirt on, and they’re leaning their chin on their hand during class,” senior Angel Augustitus-Bell said, “chances are they’re probably vaping.”

Students say it’s easy to tell when someone’s vaping.

“Usually I can tell when people are vaping,” senior Mady Motloch said. “They are covering their mouth with their shirt or holding their sleeve up to their face.”

Since vaping is new to many teachers, they are unaware of the act and when kids are doing it.

When students are caught, however, they can face up to a 10-day suspension and confiscation of paraphernalia.

“It’s fun, but I don’t do it anymore,” a junior said. “I got into trouble big time when I got caught. The vape cost $50, and they threw it away.”

At last month’s staff meeting, principal Tom Lietz addressed the recent problem by informing teachers about vaping.

“We’re definitely aware of the problem,” teacher Craig Smale said. “Everyone knows what to look for, and students can expect to see a greater staff presence in the bathrooms from now on.”

In addition to showing staff members what vape paraphernalia looks like, Lietz also discussed the various ways students are vaping during school hours.

“It’s not a Utica problem,” Lietz said. “It’s an everywhere problem. I worry–not a principal worry–but a dad worry. I just don’t get it. It’s scary. A two-minute buzz isn’t worth the life-threatening behavior.”