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Australian schools are tackling vaping by installing detectors in bathrooms. But how do they work?

Fewer young people are taking up smoking, but the same cannot be said about vaping.

Although illegal, many children have become hooked on addictive nicotine vapes, which come in a range of fruity flavours, masking worrying health impacts.

Experts warn children are particularly susceptible to the toxicity and addictive pull of the products.

It has left some schools so concerned that they have installed vape detectors in bathrooms to try to deter the behaviour.

How effective are vape detectors?

Vape Detection Australia's David Pugh said two years ago many schools had told him they did not need vape detectors "because we have good kids and our kids don't vape".

He said those conversations had changed to:

"When can we get them? Everyone's vaping and it's gotten out of control."

He said most schools he had worked with wanted the detectors installed in bathrooms, where "they've been incredibly effective."

Mr Pugh went on to explain that the units worked by picking up the specific chemical reaction let off by the vapes.

"They do pick up cigarette smoke and normal smoke too," he added.

And, he said, while the detectors do not record sounds, they do detect decibels and could alert teachers to antisocial behaviour, such as yelling.

The devices remotely connect to a computer program, then email or text teachers in real time to tell them vaping had been detected.

"So, if the school has security cameras, it can review who has come in and out of the bathrooms and then match [the footage] with the alert to see who is the guilty party," Mr Pugh explained.

Can students avoid detection?

Mr Pugh said some large schools have caught as many as 350 students vaping each week, while another school had "50 kids caught on the first morning the units came online".

He said while the units were effective, particularly as a deterrent, ventilation in the bathrooms could sometimes prevent chemicals from being detected. The majority of students would be going into a bathroom, going into a cubicle by themselves or with others, not being too strategic, and then obviously, the unit kicks into action."

He said the detectors were "not a silver bullet that will stop the whole problem" and that schools needed to also make children aware of consequences, including health impacts.

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