Texas Schools Use 'Vape-Detecting Technology' To Arrest and Imprison Teens Who Vape

Draconian anti-vaping policies are ruining students' lives.


Imagine a building where drug-sniffing dogs roam the corridors, air-quality sensors alert officials if anyone is inhaling a controlled substance, using the bathroom is a privilege rather than a right, clothing is searched in case anyone is hiding contraband up their sleeves, and those who are caught breaking the rules could face life-derailing punishments.

You might be imagining a prison. In fact, I have just described a public school in Texas, where the authorities are so obsessed with stopping teenagers from vaping that they are perfectly willing to treat them like inmates.

That's the only conclusion one can reach from this eye-opening Texas Tribune article, which details the state's draconian efforts to crack down on the vaping scourge. This year, Texas raised the vaping age from 18 to 21, and schools are pulling out all the stops—including installing "vape-detecting" sensors in the hallways—to prevent underage usage. The Tribune reports:

Vaping nicotine alone is prohibited for students under age 21, and an increasing number are being suspended or removed from regular classes and sent to alternative schools designed for students with disciplinary problems.

A smaller—but rapidly growing—number of students are being expelled when suspected of vaping THC, the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana and a felony-level controlled substance under state law. THC oils or waxes used in vape pens are almost always more potent than the marijuana plant. Police are called and students arrested in cases where officials simply suspect a vape pen contains illegal drugs.

As vaping continues to outpace traditional smoking among the nation's youth, students who a few years ago may have been charged with at most a misdemeanor for smoking a joint are now facing felony charges for having a vape pen in their backpacks.

The article highlights a few concrete examples. Student Thomas Williams-Platt, age 17, brought a vape pen into school that he had purchased from another student. Police conducted an on-site drug test that determined it contained THC. He was arrested, handcuffed, and booked into jail, where he spent hours in a cell "listening to the screams of other arrestees suffering from drug withdrawal." Texas law considers 17-year-olds to be adults for sentencing purposes, which meant that Williams-Platt could face felony charges.

That 17-year-olds in Texas are considered insufficiently mature to vape, but plenty old enough to go to prison, is an absurd and unconscionable hypocrisy. It's also the law.

When students are caught vaping, they are often immediately expelled and shipped off to alternative schools for serious wrongdoers. These are even worse environments for young people, described by Williams-Platt as a kind of "super strict kindergarten" where students learn very little, except perhaps to follow capricious and arbitrary rules. The number of Texas kids sentenced to these schools has increased 6o percent since last year, and officials say the war on vaping is largely to blame.

To the extent that vaping is harmful, most of the danger comes from consuming illicit, black market vaping products—the very sort of vaping that becomes more common as the industry is driven underground by overzealous legislators. But let's say the health concerns were well-founded. What's worse for the average teenager: vaping, or going to prison? There should be no doubt that the solution to this supposed problem—pulling kids out of good schools to send them to bad schools, treating them like inmates, and charging them with felonies—is significantly more harmful.

The war on vaping is a moral panic with terrible consequences for the very people it is supposedly designed to protect. Sadly, it is likely to get much worse. Various Republican and Democratic senators have proposed a federal measure to ban all tobacco products—including e-cigarettes—for everyone under the age of 21.

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  1. How many times do we have to hear about the tendency of any governing body, be it a school board or a national government, to morph into an authoritarian despot before we stop granting them even more power? I’m sure this is all about “saving kids” from themselves, as it is with every hairball of hysteria initiative that comes down the pike.

  2. That 17-year-olds in Texas are considered insufficiently mature to vape, but plenty old enough to go to prison, is an absurd and unconscionable hypocrisy. It’s also the law.

    This is nothing new. It’s how victimless crimes work.

    When students are caught vaping, they are often immediately expelled and shipped off to alternative schools for serious wrongdoers. These are even worse environments for young people, described by Williams-Platt as a kind of “super strict kindergarten” where students learn very little, except perhaps to follow capricious and arbitrary rules.

    Isn’t that what schools are meant to do? Isn’t that the whole deal with becoming an adult? Arbitrary and capricious rules are how governments work; businesses too. It’s how kids turn into adults.

    1. The 1970s really were peak liberty/freedom and tolerance in this country.

      1. Yes, I believe you are right about that; didn’t realize at the time I was coming of age that it was the “best of times.”

        1. Yet most who talk about the 70s never say anything good about it (watergate, inflation, Jimmy Carter). I guess if you didn’t have to be a responsible adult, it was a pretty swell time. I remember now o e of my grad school profs who used to give me crap about smoking cigarettes once waxed nostalgically about how it was socially acceptable to be high all the time in 70s California, and how he once made barbiturates in his lab for his brother in law.

          1. My understanding of the situation is that from a social standpoint, the 1970s were maximally tolerant. From an economic liberty standpoint, the high water mark in modern times seems to be around 2000.

      2. But at the same time, the 70s were the nadir of US public education.

        1. Nah-they just keep moving the goalposts to show progress (dumbing down the curriculum until everyone passes).

      3. More like the 1920s

      4. Yeah, our school had a smoking lounge out back, and it wasn’t just cigarettes being smoked.

  3. maybe it’s not so important a thing to do if they’re gonna expel you and send you to drool school?

    1. Does the boot taste good when you lick it?

      1. oh i hate authority more than you i’m just not subject to government school anymore.

  4. I blame the soccer mommies for the current vaping panic and panics in general and their demand to “just do something! Damnit!” Probably most of them smoked various things and were total sluts in their younger years and now take pleasure in projecting their own joyless lives onto their kids

    1. After 100 years you’d think we’d see the flaw in the 19th amendment and repeal the damned thing.

      1. Democracy doesn’t work. The 19th Amendment is a deck chair on the Titanic.

  5. So follow the rules.

    Still, ’17-20 year olds aren’t qualified or mature enough to make decisions about alcohol, nicotine or THC, so lets ruin their education and maybe lives if they use them’ seems … counter intuitive …

  6. I wonder why people act so surprised now that schools start to resemble prisons, more kids are going to have serious mental problems and some will do terrible things.

    1. But it makes their future transition much smoother.

      1. For those can adapt to living under Big Brother, authoritarian schools are good preparation. From those who can’t, we’ll see more and more “acting out” and violence as they break under the stress.

    2. more kids are ‘having mental problems’ BECAUSE of the school. particularly boys. The system so effeminises them they need to be DOING stuff, not sitting about in circles playing patty cakes and colouring things. There is so much emphasis put on “sit still and learn, Johnny” when the kid’s got ants in his pants becayse hes growing like a weed, and NEEDS to get out and DO something pysically and mentally challenging The kids can’t even play pickup ball games dyring recess and lunch hour any more…. too “dangerous:. The monkey bars, swings, climbing trees, are all morphed into indisious chalenge-less brightly coloured devices that are not fun any more… no challenge. We used to try to go “round the world” on the swings, which had the top bar some twenty feet high. And the monkey bars were so high off the ground you didn’t WANT to let go, as the fall was signficant. As an adult I can’t even use them, cause my feet touch the ground. Can’t do piggy back rides, (pigs are probably trigger critters anyway, so they’d have to invent another name for them) chase steel hoops, most kids can’t ride their bikes on the streets any more…… so Mommie has to drive them everywhere, which wears her out, and the car, and takes the wings right off the kids. Han, by third grade I had to ride to school four miles, on streets, and when arranged beforehand, I’d ride to friends’ houses, etc after school. Mommy was to busy with the younger ones at home to ferry ME bout everywhere I wanted to go. And I do not know of any of my schoolmates in grade or high school that turned into dopers, drunks, bad guys, thieves, murdeers, deadbeat dads, welfare queens/kings….. yeah, a few of them smoked in high school…. the rest of us teased them and laughed at them. Not hard enough to make any of them quit, though.

      1. these days any parents letting their kids do what we did all the time (shoulder responsibility for our lives, time, schoolwork, friends, getting where we needed to go) and actually be allowed to Mature and be RESPONSIBLE would be arrestd, their kids stolen by CPS, and we’d haev been in foster care. At GREAT expense to the state, and profit for the local agencies tht manage such stuff)

        But then, back in that time, government were not yet elevated to the position of a god.

    3. It’s strange how they made the schools these youth prisons and seem surprised when a few kids want to shoot them up.

  7. To be fair, everything is BIGGER in Texas…the police state and the sizeable population of control freaks, do-gooders, snitches and other assorted statist assholes being prime examples! Maybe when the inevitable backlash begins, this will turn out to be a good thing for liberty and individual responsibility.

  8. School: “Don’t vape, kids! It will ruin your lives!”
    Student: “How will it ruin my life?”
    School: “It will ruin your life due to all the stuff I’ll do to you if I catch you vaping!”

    1. Sorta the way some weed used to ruin lives.

      1. Disobeying the laws of the society you live in will ruin your life.

        And while many laws are nonsensical, the solution isn’t to complain about their enforcement, the solution is to change the laws.

        1. And while we are working to change the laws, which is a slow process, I will continue to complain about their enforcement

          1. Well, that doesn’t make you a libertarian, it makes you a stupid, selfish prick bent on destroying society.

    2. Great comment…..

  9. “Texas Schools Use ‘Vape-Detecting Technology’ To Arrest and Imprison Teens Who Vape.”

    An excellent idea!
    This way Texas can not only violate the teenager’s privacy and rights, Texas can also support their wonderful prison industrial complex.
    Two birds.
    One stone.

  10. What about those who are vaping nicotine-free juice?

    1. Same as what happens to the kid who brings a toy gun to school-zero tolerance is zero tolerance

      1. And zero tolerance has an IQ of zero

  11. Try vaping at a high end restaurant, boutique, private university, or library. It’s not just prisons that ban this, it’s high end private places as well.

    Privatizing these schools would take care of the libertarian objections.

  12. This is what ignorant americans have been demanding and now you are really getting it. Law and order, kill the tweakers, you hate the homeless, TV shows about cops and forensic claptrap and not a one of you ever actually asked to see that study on secondhand smoke did you…The chickens are coming home to roost.
    Govt cannot use the military against you but the state you live in has Rights and power and if they get the cuffs on you it is game over.
    They sure care about the children don’t they! Gun Free Zones and gun control…2.3 million in prison and you thought that sounds about right? Government is destroyer of lives and they have not even looked at the Constitution in decades.
    God gave us 10 laws (congress has lost count of theirs) and his Son told us to live by the Golden Rule and to trust God’s word because it is the truth and Jesus said the truth would set us free.

  13. I am in right for sending teens to imprisonment. Because, it can have a bad impression on them. If you need some photo editing software other than photoshop then you can check Adobe Photoshop Alternatives (10+ Available) where you can find their features, pros and cons.

  14. America has a love/hate relationship with her children. Only without the love part.

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