What Happens If I Get Caught Vaping At School?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on

Vaping has grown in popularity in the last several years, raising concerns about its use among adolescents. If you are caught vaping at school, you could face disciplinary action from the school, which may vary depending on whether THC is involved.

Getting Caught Vaping At School

Vaping has increasingly become popular with young people in middle school and high school, causing school districts to take disciplinary action.

If you are caught vaping on school grounds, you could face consequences. There is no universal policy for this, so school administrators are often left to develop their own rules and consequences.

Administrators at the district level may also develop a district-wide policy for schools to follow.

What Is Vaping?

Vaping has become very popular in recent years. In 2023 alone, the vaping industry is expected to generate $23 billion in revenue.

A vape or e-cigarette is a small device, in some cases not much bigger than a thumb drive. This cartridge has a battery-powered heating coil that turns liquid, usually purchased in small cartridges, into vapor.

Most e-cigarette cartridges have nicotine that is often flavored. You can also buy cartridges that have tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the component in marijuana that causes the high.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 11% of high school students and almost 3% of middle school students reported that they used e-cigs in 2021.

How School Districts Typically Address Vaping

For school districts, the concern is mainly for the health and safety of the students. Among chemicals found in vaping products, diacetyl, formaldehyde, and acrolein are known to cause lung problems.

Also, student vaping does not just affect the students using vaping devices. It may pose health risks to students who are exposed to the vapor and have lung sensitivities or asthma.

It may also encourage students to switch to tobacco products, as some studies have suggested. For these reasons, schools often have a zero-tolerance policy related to vaping at school.

School Suspension

School suspension is often directed at students who are caught using any form of these devices on school grounds.

Devices for vaping include:

  • electronic cigarettes
  • disposable electronic cigarettes
  • vape pens
  • other vaping devices

In-school suspension or out-of-school suspension may last around three days or longer depending on the school.

Some schools don’t give suspension at first. Instead, they confiscate the device, inform the parents, and require that the student attend education on vaping and nicotine.

Increasing Penalties With Each Incidence

If you are caught vaping again, penalties may be stiffer.

Penalties may include:

  • out-of-school suspension
  • longer suspension period
  • restriction from extracurricular activities

Discipline For Bystanders

As part of a no-tolerance policy, many schools also discipline bystanders, such as people who happen to be in the bathroom when someone is vaping.

If you want to avoid becoming a part of your school’s disciplinary process, avoid people who are vaping. Leave the area where they are doing it. If it’s in a bathroom, find another one if possible.

Other School Strategies To Address Vaping

Other schools have tried different strategies to try to curb vaping. For example, some may require attendance in a program that teaches the dangers of smoking.

One school in Washoe County, NV, was accused of leveling a $300 fine at students for vaping on campus, but this couldn’t be verified. However, some schools have enacted similar penalties.

What Happens If You Are Caught Vaping Off-Campus?

Federal law states that you have to be 18 or older to buy tobacco products, including vaping devices. Some state laws have raised the minimum age to 21.

If you are a minor and are caught vaping off school property, there is nothing the school can do. However, you may have to deal with local law enforcement depending on state laws and city codes for smoking in public.

What Happens If You Are Caught Vaping THC?

Nicotine products are not the only products that are sold for vaping. Some vape cartridges have THC. Whether marijuana is legalized in your state or not is beside the point if you are underage.

You could face serious consequences for vaping THC. You could be expelled from school and have to attend a disciplinary school for the remainder of your academic career. In some cases, you may face legal charges.

If students are underaged, they could be charged for having THC, the same as if you had alcohol in your possession.  In states where marijuana has not been legalized, students could be charged with misdemeanor or even felony possession.

Vaping THC In School

In 2019, there were a series of cases involving students vaping THC in schools throughout the country. Some students wound up facing felony charges.

In California, some schools have installed vape detectors in school bathrooms. Teachers have had to be educated on vaping devices that look so much like a thumb drive that students have charged vaping devices on school computers unnoticed.

According to CNN, by 2021 vaping marijuana among teens had doubled over the previous seven years. On the other hand, the pandemic overall seems to have decreased teen vaping.

Addiction Treatment For Vaping

If students are facing addiction to vaping THC, there is treatment available.

Teen rehab centers offer a number of approaches to addiction treatment that have proven effective for teens, focusing on group therapy, family therapy, and other forms of treatment.

Addiction treatment often reveals other mental health issues that may be related to a substance use disorder or may be exacerbating a substance use disorder.

If students have undiagnosed mental health conditions, they may be self-medicating and not realize it. Diagnostic assessments at many rehab centers can help students facing THC or marijuana addiction address underlying issues and move forward with a sober life.

Find Addiction Treatment Today

If you or a loved one is facing a substance use disorder, you can find treatment today. Call us to learn about your treatment options, the recovery process, and how to get started.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on
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