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Prevention Agencies Bringing In Expert For Free Talks On Vaping Threat



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The potential dangers associated with the relatively new and exploding habit of vaping has been on the Newtown Parent Connection and local Prevention Council’s radar for several years. But within weeks of Connecticut tallying up more than 30 hospitalizations and at least one death associated with vaping, Parent Connection Founder Dorrie Carolan knew she had to do something — and fast.

“It was bad enough hearing about all these hospitalizations, but once reports started coming in about people dying from vaping, I knew we needed to react quickly — not just as two groups partnering on prevention, but as a community — to help parents understand the implications of kids vaping and having access to vaping products that could be so harmful,” Ms Carolan told The Newtown Bee.

That response is coming in the form of a top national expert on the dangers and effects of vaping who will be holding a series of Newtown Middle School and High School sessions, as well as a public presentation Thursday, November 7, from 7-8:30 pm, in the middle school auditorium, 11 Queen Street.

The special guest presenter, Michael DeLeon, is among the nation’s leading presenters on topics related to the dangers of addictive substances and founder of Steered Straight.

According to his bio, Mr DeLeon is a successfully acclimated ex-offender who after nearly eight years of drug addiction and gang involvement, spent 12 years in state prison and halfway houses for a gang-related homicide. He is an award-winning and highly recognized prevention expert, author, and filmmaker who has spoken to more than seven million students and young adults in more than 6,000 schools and facilities across 48 states.

His nonprofit, Steered Straight Inc, was formed in 2000 and works to carry an important message to youth on the extreme dangers of drugs, gang involvement, and associated criminal activity. Steered Straight’s program reaches out to children, teens, and young adults with a message of reality about life-choices and the importance of consequential thinking so that they understand that there are consequences to their actions.

Stay In Your Lane Media, a division of Steered Straight, was founded by Mr DeLeon in 2012 and has produced four award winning documentaries, Kids Are Dying, An American Epidemic, Marijuana X, and Road to Recovery, and his fifth documentary, Higher Power, is poised for release.

Mr DeLeon and his team have also produced multiple public service announcements as well as educational and instructional videos on prevention and recovery. Another special project of Steered Straight is called The Recovery Army. Recovery Army’s mission is to recruit everyone to wage war on this pandemic of addiction.

His public presentation in Newtown on November 7 is free, and Ms Carolan encourages parents to bring any students who did not see the school day presentations he has planned for middle school 8th graders and high school freshmen and sophomores.

“I had been looking for the right presenter on the subject of vaping dangers, and Tim Morris, our Parent Connection Help & Support facilitator for Newtown and Fairfield /Milford told me about Michael DeLeon,” Ms Carolan said.

“When I learned he was available, Tim helped us coordinate bringing in for one day in Fairfield where he’s presenting the same format to Ludlow High School’s upper class during the day and appearing at the school’s freshman forum at night. So we were able to arrange bringing him up to Newtown the next day.”

According to Mr DeLeon, “We are in the worst public social health crisis America has ever seen, and with vaping/JUULing, marijuana legalization, and a culture that literally grew up with pills marketed as the solution for every human ailment — the threat to our youth is greater than ever.”

He believes the gap between what parents need to know and current trends is growing, and “the importance of parental education and awareness can’t be overestimated.”

Ms Carolan said attendees will leave the presentation with more knowledge about the drug nicotine, new understanding how tobacco/nicotine and marijuana have drastically changed in nature and substance as well as marketing, and thought-provoking information on the long-term effects of gateway drugs, especially nicotine.

While Ms Carolan recognizes the state’s recent increase in the minimum age to legally purchase tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21, and she is “thrilled about age increase,” the Parent Connection founder knows many purveyors are “still not checking the age” of consumers.

“I’m still hoping it will make a difference,” she said while calling on and encouraging the state’s tobacco enforcement agency — the Department of Consumer Protection — “maintain and step-up their actions and to fine, not just warn violating retailers.”

At the same time, she recognizes that many of the products that are causing vaping illnesses and deaths in Connecticut and across the country are either illegal or modified and not the same products consumers can easily purchase legally.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of October 8, 1,299 cases of vaping-related lung injury had been reported from 49 states and 1 US territory. The CDC also reported 26 deaths had been confirmed in 21 states, including one fatality from Connecticut, which has logged 31 recent vaping-related hospitalizations.

Award-winning prevention expert, author, film maker, and speaker Michael DeLeon will be coming to Newtown November 7 for a series of in-school talks and a free public information presentation on the dangers of vaping being co-sponsored by the Newtown Prevention Council and Newtown Parent Connection.—photo courtesy NPC
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