Officials at Riverview High School are trying to crack down on a growing number of students using e-cigarettes on school property and in some cases inside the school building.

Powered by batteries, e-cigarettes heat up a liquid, creating a vapour that mimics the sensation of smoking. 

While they're marketed as a non-tobacco alternative to traditional cigarettes, they remain controversial, especially in Moncton's schools.

"We had an announcement the other day saying they banned e-smokes but people still bring them, because today I walked into the bathroom and there's like five or six people in a group smoking," student Calvin Bannister said.

Classmate Zach Cyr agrees.

"All the time," he said. "Not only outside but even in, after gym there's always that one guy with an electronic cigarette."

Student Ashley Venieris says many who are using e-cigarettes in school aren't shy about it.

"A lot of the bus ride home from school, sometimes in the hallway, like they'll be walking," she said. "And I think they forget there's cameras in the school sometimes."

Riverview High School Principal Jason Reath recently warned parents about the trend in a letter sent home.

'After gym there's always that one guy with an electronic cigarette.'
- Zach Cyr

The letter, in part, read:

"An increasing number of students are using e-cigarettes and vaporizers. I want to let you know these devices violate our province's tobacco free schools policy. Students are not permitted to use them while on school property and should also not have them at school."

The Anglophone East school district says other schools have sent home similar notes.

Prof. Robert Schwartz with the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit at the University of Toronto says they are right to be concerned. 

"In New Brunswick 26 per cent of youth, those are 15 to 19-year-olds, have tried a cigarette," he said. "And a similar proportion aged of 20 to 24 have tried an e-cigarette so this isn't something that is just very small on the fringe."

A ready market

Health Canada has not yet authorized use of nicotine in e-cigarettes.

But there's a ready market for the devices.

Roy Shakibaei's convenience store has only been selling them for a couple of weeks. He treats them the same as any tobacco product.

"I don't sell it to anybody under 19," he said. "And if somebody wants to come and buy here, and they're young, I ask them for ID and also, I gave them a small lecture."

Other vendors CBC contacted say they only sell e-cigarettes to people 19 and over, but students say they don't have any trouble getting their hands on them.

"I find they're really popular at our school, like so many people smoke them," Bannister said.