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SHERIDAN — The Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention of Sheridan County met Monday and discussed two new frontiers of drug prevention. Neither drug is new — in fact, quite the opposite, but nicotine and marijuana have both recently been assigned new public presentations that makes abuse education more challenging.
Nicotine delivery via technology is taking off around the nation with the introduction of e-cigarettes onto the mainstream market.
The battery-powered devices suspend nicotine in water vapor for the “smoker” to inhale in an alternative drug delivery system. E-cigarettes operate without the byproducts of fire, ash or smoke, and are marketed with cartoon-like ads. Nicotine cartridges come in fruit and candy flavors.
Legislatures across the nation are still working to establish how to regulate the product. Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael, appointed last month, joined 40 other state AGs last month urging the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates e-cigarette experimentation and recent use doubled last year among middle and high school students, and the alliance heard a report Monday confirming e-cigarette use has been witnessed in classrooms at Sheridan High School under the nose of teachers, as the device emits no telltale smell.
“We’re having to watch and get ahead of e-cigarettes,” Community Prevention Specialist Thom Gabriekiewicz said. “Some people are saying, ‘If all that’s coming out is water vapor, then what’s the harm?'”
The harm, he said, is that means all the nicotine is delivered directly into a person’s lungs.
He added information regarding the dangers of e-cigarette use are not well advertised because the product is new, but the dangers of nicotine have been known for decades.
The alliance also examined the inconsistent messages — and public policies – regarding marijuana. To the North, Montana has approved the drug for medicinal purposes. Eastward, Nebraska has decriminalized marijuana, and to the south, Colorado has legalized cannabis outright. This situation creates a trafficking hazard for Wyoming, where using or possessing the drug remains illegal in all circumstances, and public messages about the drug are becoming muddled.
“We’re in uncharted waters with other states legalizing marijuana,” Sheridan Health Center Executive Director Cathi Kindt said, acknowledging many messages regarding cannabis are outdated and inconsistent. “It’s a whole different way of looking at things now and we can’t go back into the same old ways of teaching.”
Gabrukiewicz added a recent Gallup Poll showed 58 percent of Americans now favor legalization of the drug.
The group agreed future prevention messages regarding marijuana will likely end up mirroring those of alcohol, which emphasize responsible use in adults whose brains are fully developed.
Also at Mondays ASAP meeting:
• members reviewed a bookmark with information about how to prevent prescription drug abuse by keeping medicine in cabinets to a minimum. Gabrukiewicz said he hopes to have the information available at local pharmacy counters and medical provider offices.
• the group discussed an ad campaign praising smoke-free establishments. Gabrukiewicz presented a poster he designed for Buffalo that lists smoke-free environments. He discussed the feasibility of creating a similar campaign for Sheridan, which would act like free advertising for businesses that ban smoke and invite others to do the same.
• the team discussed techniques to strengthen training for alcohol servers.
• Kindt gave an overview of events planned to celebrate November as Mens’ Health Awareness Month.