Bathroom doors come off to stop vaping at Ottawa school

It’s a new teen trend and it’s on the rise. More Ottawa teens vape than smoke cigarettes, and they are doing it in places they aren’t supposed to.

The principal at St. Joseph High School in Barrhaven, Don Murphy, is the latest to take a bold step to control vaping on school property. In a new year’s letter to students and parents, Murphy announced bathroom entrance doors will be coming off, in hopes the vaping will stop.

In his note Murphy says:

"As you may have read in the media lately, vaping indoors has become an issue in many Ottawa-area schools, and St. Joe's is no exception. In order to address this problem, washroom doors will soon be removed from most of our washrooms so that vaping can be detected more readily and washrooms can be entered quickly. The majority of our washrooms have privacy walls, like those at many airports, for example, so the removal of doors will not pose issues regarding privacy. Also, when our addition is built, washrooms there will not have doors as this is now standard construction procedure as doors pose hygienic and safety concerns. There are only two washrooms, near the main office, where doors cannot be removed. These washrooms will be monitored on a regular basis in order to discourage vaping. In addition, schools have now been given the authority to issue, via by-law officers, fines of $305 for those caught vaping indoors or for those visibly holding a vaping device. Essentially, if a student is caught, a form is filled out, by-law is called, and the fine is issued. I will be informing students of this at our January assemblies, taking place on Tuesday, Jan. 8. I am extremely confident that the removal of washroom doors and the issuing of fines will discourage those tempted to vape, or smoke, indoors.”

Since the Smoke Free Ontario Act was amended in October 2018, Ottawa Public Health and Bylaw officers have handed out fines and warnings to 30 Ottawa students.

Kids caught vaping at any Ottawa school, catholic or public, will face an up to $305 fine. If you are caught selling a vape to a minor or even sharing your vape with a friend under 18, you will be forced to pay a $490 fine.

“We do proactive inspections at schools but we also do complaint driven inspections,” says Ottawa Public Health Project Officer Dana Periard, “if a school has a specific issue they can send us their witness reports and then we act accordingly.”