TEACHERS are having to find new tactics to spot pupils smoking on school grounds since the introduction of e-cigarettes.

Stephen Cox, headteacher at Ribblesdale High School, in Clitheroe, said detection of smokers was becoming ‘more problematic’ for staff because of the lack of smell and visibility from the electronic alternatives.

The devices were banned at the Queen’s Road school in February after staff became aware some children had brought them onto the premises.

Mr Cox said: “After consultation with other headteachers in the Ribble Valley it was decided that, although not illegal, schools were not the place for pupils to use these devices which, of course, dispense nicotine.

“Although clearly not as dangerous as smoking normal cigarettes, e-cigarettes potentially can lead to addiction as nicotine is a highly addictive drug.

“We have no evidence that they are being used in school covertly by pupils but clearly detection is more problematic due to the lack of smell and visibility.

“I must say that in my experience the general reduction of smoking in society has also been generally replicated in the proportion of smoking related incidents now seen in schools.”

E-cigarettes were introduced in the USA six years ago and give smokers an alternative to tobacco.

As they do not contain tobacco, they are not covered by the smoking ban.

The devices also do not have an age restriction and it is not currently illegal to sell them to under-18s. The majority of schools have banned all smoking on their premises, including staff.

Mr Cox said: “It is better to smoke e-cigarettes than traditional ones, but general medical opinion is that the risks are not clear as yet as there is little data available, particularly with regard to how it might or might not lead to smoking traditional cigarettes.”

Fraser Cropper, business development director for Totally Wicked, which sells electronic cigarettes and liquid in Stancliffe Street, Blackburn, said he agreed with a full ban on the devices’ use in schools. He said: “If I were a headmaster, I would have a ban on any products that potentially bring children into an addiction.”

Mr Cropper added that despite the electronic cigarettes they sold containing only nicotine and no carcinogens, which produce toxins, the shop would still not sell them to children under 18.