Vape detectors 'an option' for NSW public schools

·2-min read

Experts and principals hope a proposed ban on retail vaping sales will help avoid nicotine detection devices becoming prevalent on school grounds.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler on Tuesday announced a $234 million boost in the upcoming budget for tougher regulation of e-cigarettes, including new controls on their importation and packaging.

The NSW education department has quietly begun to consider installing 40,000 vape detection devices in public schools by July 2024.

St John Paul II Catholic College in Canberra has been operating detection devices for the past year and said "very little" on-campus vaping has occurred since.

If a vape detector goes off, the student is required to complete a vaping education program and their parents are informed.

"Rather than a punitive approach we always try to ensure we use an educative model," principal Catherine Rey told AAP.

"But if this new legislation goes through, we're hoping schools won't need to go down the detector route.

"There is a significant financial element."

Sydney University expert Becky Freeman also hopes the federal government measures will be enough to temper the need for detection devices in schools.

"I find it really stressful to hear schools are being forced to use a policing response to vaping," she told AAP.

Dr Freeman's research showed the detection devices were not stopping children from vaping, and teachers were becoming more frustrated.

"We need to have the same public health response as we had with COVID," she said.

"These products were designed and marketed for kids, it's not their fault they've responded to the market."

Under the proposed changes, state and federal governments would work together to ban the sale of vapes in retail and convenience stores, while making it easier to get a prescription for therapeutic use.

In the interim, NSW Education Minister Prue Car said she and her department would be led by evidence about the detectors' effectiveness before rolling them out to more than 2000 government-run schools.

"It's an option at this stage, we haven't made a final decision but when that decision is made we'll be open and transparent," she told reporters on Tuesday.

Ms Car said she could not say how much any such rollout would cost.