MONTVILLE, NJ - There are always consistent drug talks going on at our public schools. But for state police officer and motivational speaker Timothy Shoemaker, there’s another epidemic that deserves attention. This epidemic involves vaping.

“Sometimes, these subjects like vaping can be very depressing and it feels like a drag for some to attend these kind of talks,” said Shoemaker. “But when they leave, they feel empowered with this knowledge. We do crazy things for our kids. That's probably why you're all here.”

Vaping refers to the use of an electronic cigarette (known as e-cigarette), a handheld battery-powered vaporizer that simulates smoking and provides some of the behavioral aspects of smoking, but without burning tobacco. Instead of cigarette smoke, the user inhales an aerosol, commonly called vapor, and therefore the user is known as a “vaper.” Solutions (known as e-liquids) almost always include nicotine, flavoring and a humectant, such as propylene glycol, to retain moisture and create the aerosol when heated.

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Shoemaker is a Morris Plains resident who has been doing presentations at public school all over the United States for 16 years. Often he talks about the dangers of substance abuse, character education, emotional resiliency and how to make drug-free decisions.

“Twenty-four years ago, I became a police officer to save lives and most of the time, I was too late,” said Shoemaker. “This gives me a chance to get there before the worst happens.”

According to the FDA, among middle and high school students, over 5 million were current users of e-cigarettes in 2019, and almost 1 million were using the e-cigarettes daily. E-cigarettes are also known to explode in people’s mouths and pockets due to overheated lithium batteries.

“All of my colleagues know very little about vaping. Vaping is the fastest growing and most pervasive drug trend we had in American history. I've gone to schools where there are adults who monitor the only bathroom that students can use, to narrow down the drug epidemic in their facilities.”

Shoemaker had set up a table that contained everyday items that students have been known to conceal drugs in, such as DVDs, deodorant sticks, water bottles and candy. There were even hair combs that were fitted to be flasks for alcohol. Shoemaker also spoke about how society has made mistakes in the past when it has come to combating the country’s drug epidemic. There was even a time in the 19th Century when doctors prescribed cocaine for toothaches!

“We can’t fix things unless we really realize that we’ve screwed things up,” said Shoemaker.

Shoemaker also showed commercials dating back to the 50s, where doctors even recommended cigarettes to be healthy. Nowadays, e-cigarettes are considered healthier, but Shoemaker related how vaping makes people addicted to nicotine and the epidemic does not change and still has an impact.

“This year, half a million people are estimated to die from cigarettes,” said Shoemaker. “Even if vaping is 90 percent safer, that's still 50,000 people dying this year from cigarettes. That's a failure in my eyes.”

And the audience members, numbering to over 100, felt that was a failure as well, and were glad to learn such information on vaping.

“It's so critical for parents to learn a little more on vaping," said Montville Schools Superintendent Rene Rovtar. “You can see the wide variety of items that can be used to conceal drugs and alcohol. So if parents see this, they can have more information to address this with their kids. Shoemaker himself is so full of energy and jam-packed with useful information. We can reinforce this data into our health classes.”

This seminar had been organized by members of the Montville Township Drug Awareness Council.

“This lecture shows what exactly happens to the human body as you vape,” said Keri Spitz, Vice Chair of the Montville Township Drug Awareness Council. “It has also been very well-received by the high school. Students paid attention and showed interest in the dangers of vaping.”

And the Montville parents were happy to learn about vaping and that such a seminar had been given to their high schoolers, with a focus on keeping the school community well-informed and drug-free.

“I'm all in favor of everything this seminar teaches,” said Montville resident Jason Abfier, whose son goes to Lazar Middle School. “I think programs like this better educate students and parents. I hope it keeps us in the right direction and opens the door to having conversations with our kids on these serious subjects.”

To learn more about Timothy Shoemaker and the subjects he addresses at schools and public places, visit his website at http://timothyshoemaker.com/.

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