Vaping detection devices helping Mass. school curb problem

GEORGETOWN, Mass. — A Georgetown school is trying to combat the nationwide problem of teen vaping and its principal is fielding calls from other schools and states to follow suit.

“This morning I had a school from Texas I was talking to the principal who is doing exactly what you said... pulling their hair out with this problem,” said Georgetown Middle-High School principal Dan Richards.

Recent statistics suggest that teen vaping is not going away. One study found a nearly 10% rise in vaping among high school seniors between 2017 and 2018.

“You simply just cannot keep up with it... and you're running from bathroom to bathroom trying to figure out what's going on,” Richards said.

To help reduce vaping numbers, Richards said that Georgetown Middle-High installed 10 vape detectors in school bathrooms last year.

Derek Peterson, CEO of Soter Technologies, the company that created the product, said that this summer it has been inundated with calls about the detectors.

"When we detect that there's vape in the air, we'll then send a silent message to the school administrator,” Peterson said. “And that comes in the form of a text message, an e-mail message or if you use our mobile app you get an in-app notification."

Peterson said more than 1,000 schools have installed devices worldwide. Georgetown-Middle High was the first to do so in Massachusetts, and it plans to get 10 more devices.

While the school said the devices aren’t perfect – sometimes alerts are delayed or there are false alarms – Richards estimates that the devices have cut down the number of vaping incidents by 75% at Georgetown Middle-High.

Holliston’s school committee is talking about installing vape detection devices at the high school, where some students have reported avoiding using the bathroom because of vaping.

“We care," Richards said. "And we care enough to bring these devices in so you have a healthy lifestyle here at school."