Weekend Herald

Schools lock loos to curb vaping surge

Toilet clampdown a bid to control increasing­ly problemati­c ‘epidemic’

- Amy Wiggins

Schools are resorting to locking toilet blocks in an effort to curb the increasing numbers of students vaping.

One principal described vaping as an “epidemic” and another noted a marked rise in the past six months.

Secondary Principals’ Associatio­n of New Zealand president Vaughan Couillault said his school had made particular toilet blocks key-access only in a desperate bid to clamp down on the growing trend.

Aquinas College on Australia’s Gold Coast went a step further last month, locking all toilets during class time. Students must get permission from a teacher to use them.

Couillault, the principal of Papatoetoe High School, said vaping was becoming an increasing issue that principals were addressing daily.

He locked one set of boys’ toilets that seemed to be a favoured hangout. “It’s proven to be a bit of a hot spot so we are trying to cool it down.”

Couillault said vaping was a slightly more complicate­d issue than smoking, There was still little research on the harms of it, which made students more opposed to accepting it was not socially acceptable.

Auckland Secondary Principals’ Associatio­n president Steve Hargreaves said it was a growing problem. “Initially there was a buzz around it and it was about watermelon flavour and things that probably seemed quite exciting,” said the Macleans College principal.

“Now it’s moved into students vaping nicotine and there’s a hard core of students who really now are struggling to get through the day because they’re vaping nicotine.”

Hargreaves said he had to deal with the issue once every week or two and had stood down a boy for vaping this week. The school stood students down the first time they were caught vaping, he said.

“It’s definitely not risk-free. We don’t know what the full consequenc­es are going to be that will play out over time. It is scary because we could be setting our students up to deal with some serious long-term health issues.”

Rangitoto College principal Patrick Gale has noticed a marked increase in the past six months.

“New Zealand’s done such a great job in terms of decreasing the levels of youth smoking that for vaping now to be suddenly very much in vogue is such a shame.”

Gale said his school also had an instant stand-down policy for anyone caught vaping and had stood down a number of students this week.

But he did not plan to lock toilets. “We’re not going to be quite as draconian. It is very much a minority who are involved in this behaviour so

It is scary because we could be setting our students up to deal with some serious longterm health issues.

Steve Hargreaves

McLeans College principal

we don’t want to punish everybody.”

Auckland Grammar headmaster Tim O’Connor described vaping as an “epidemic” among the 13 to 15-yearold age group and the school was about to install vape detectors.

Some students had been formally stood down for vaping.

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