Congressman Steve Womack at Teen Drug/Vaping Meeting in Harrison

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On Thursday night Boone County residents gathered in the Durand Center to discuss the effect drugs and vaping are having on children in the community. US Congressman of Arkansas’ 3rd district Steve Womack said “There is no issue of greater importance to the future of our country than illegal drug use.”

Womack’s son has dealt with addiction for several years, and the Congressman said he would give up everything he has including every elected office he has held to go back and catch the early signs of his son’s addiction. He spoke to the model teen bedroom set up in the conference center and encouraged parents to be diligent in checking their children’s room thoroughly and warns of the many places illicit substances and paraphernalia can be hidden.

Model teen bedroom with more than 100 hiding places for illicit substances.

In addition to the Congressman’s remarks Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson spoke to his pledge of focusing on the problem of illegal narcotics in Harrison. Assistant Police Chief John Cagle said the Harrison Police Department has already added one additional narcotics officer and plans to add another in the next year. Harrison Police also employ two K-9 units.

Besides the issues of drugs the other main focus of the meeting was the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices in children. Brenda Patterson, the Coordinator for Tobacco Prevention Cessation Program & Translator for Madison County Health Unit at Huntsville, displayed and warned of many popular vaping devices that have been confiscated from children in the Huntsville school system.

Popular vaping devices being found in possession of children in school. Many of these are designed to look like ink pens or flash drives.

Patterson warned of the unknown dangerous ingredients in vape juice as well as the potential for vaping devices to explode and injure the user. She said that many of the cartridges used in vaping devices hold as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes and that cigarette companies are marketing these products directly to teenagers, calling them “replacement smokers.” Fruity flavors, clever designs, and images of fun are some of the ways electronic cigarette companies promote these products to youth.

To show how much of an epidemic vaping in teenagers has become Patterson said the electronic cigarette industry has grown 78% in one year’s time to become a $35 billion industry.

Story by Coleman Taylor