March 7, 2019

Be The Influence speaks to council and shares concerns on youth drug use and its effect on the developing brain

By Lorraine Glowczak

The Windham Town Council held its weekly Tuesday evening meeting on March 5 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall Council Chamber room. The agenda items included a discussion on the Watershed Protection Grant applications that were received from five area lakes and rivers, a discussion on rescue services medical billing as well the need for updates to the animal control ordinance referencing nuisance dogs.

Laura Morris and Dominic Cataldi
The Council also heard from Be The Influence (BTI) Coalition Director, Laura Morris, and other
coalition members as they provided a presentation to share with the council the coalition’s mission, it’s work within the community and to express their concerns regarding youth drug use and how a long term habit has been scientifically proven to be harmful to youth brain development.
Morris explained that BTI is a collaborative community effort between leaders in Windham and Raymond and its goal is to spread awareness about the dangers of youth substance abuse and address the issues surrounding it. BTI does that though various projects and activities that encourages youth engagement. It also includes training and education with parents, at schools, town councils, etc. The students are provided up to date information through their school curriculum and the many BTI student members provide peer-to-peer education and activities to younger students in the RSU14 system.

Morris stated that vaping among the youth has become a very important issue and is specifically targeted to children. It is advertised to be safe alternative to cigarettes, but it still contains nicotine and it’s just a dangerous. There are over 8,000 vape flavors, including “Kool-Aid”, and “Cotton Candy” to name but just a few.

The greatest concern regarding vaping are the actual vapor ingredients. These include the following:

Toluene (petroleum)
Acetaldehyde (disinfectant)
Benzene (Charcoal/lighter fluid)
Cadmium (batteries) formaldehyde (preserve)
Isoprene (rubber)
Marijuana and heroin can also be added 

“We are not trying to be political- we are just trying to be scientific,” Morris said regarding the addiction of nicotine on the body. Referring to result from a study of Harvard Professor, Nora Voltrow, nicotine can cause increased heart rate, trouble breathing, damage to lungs, and increased acid reflux.

Morris stated that marijuana use among youth is also a concern and she showed an image from Voltrow’s research that demonstrated normal brain receptors compared to the brain receptors (or the lack thereof) after long-term use of marijuana.

Asst. Principal of Windham High School, Phil Rosetti joined Morris to provide additional information. “I’ve been an educator for 25 years. One thing this community does is care about its kids. Increased vaping has become an epidemic, and couple that with the legalization of marijuana, it has made our job very difficult. Vaping is also used for marijuana as well,” he stated to the council.
He also informed the council that in some vaping devices he has confiscated, he found that the THC level was at 93%. “Compare that back to the 90s, when THC levels were only at 3%, we’ve seen the increase of the addictive qualities.”

Rosetti stated that the schools along with the BTI coalition are working together to provide alternative ways to keep students’ interests in other things with an emphasis on making healthy decisions.

“Council, you are faced with a great responsibility to balance the needs of the community. I do hope you’ll continue to give thoughtful consideration to legislation that help support students in our community.”

Morris introduced an active BTI student member and Windham Middle School sixth-grader, Dominic Cataldi who has successfully completed a public service announcement (PSA) that will be shown at Smitty’s Theater. When asked how he felt about his PSA, he stated that he felt really good about it and that it was a great educational opportunity and “….kept my brain off drugs.”

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