Interactive BPAC Town Hall will teach parents, kids about nicotine vaping

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BURRILLVILLE – Monica Blanchette knows that the juice used in e-cigarettes contains chemicals that stick around, and can affect the growing brain and development.

She also knows how modern vapes and materials look, and how new clothing and gear for vape users has been designed to hide them.

Now, Blanchette wants parents to know, and to provide information that will help facilitate important conversations with their kids on the topic.

Blanchette serves as the coordinator for the Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition. The organization will host a Town Hall on the topic of nicotine, vaping and e-cigarettes on Tuesday, April 30 from 5-8 p.m. at Jesse Smith Memorial Library.

But in place of the format of a typical “town hall” forum, BPAC has set up a lineup of guests and speakers that will keep visitors engaged, and get them informed on the topic.

“Rather than BPAC hosting a traditional Town Hall with a panel of speakers, the subcommittee decided to have a more interactive event with different presenters that parents and children can engage with and learn about the negative effects of nicotine and e-cigarettes together,” said Blanchette.

Among the features at the event is a parents-only session dubbed “Hidden in Plain Sight,” where guests will explore a mock teenager’s bedroom as prevention specialists guide them in recognizing and identifying drug paraphernalia, hiding places, lingo, and signs and symptoms that may indicate drug use or other risky behavior.

“They’ll walk them through, and show them the latest designs, and clothing and materials that are out there,” said Blanchette. “It’s for parents to get an idea of what’s out there and where to look.”

Blanchette and a group of some 10 volunteer organizers have also set up a number of features to occupy kids while parents get the 411.

Woonsocket Police Department Officer Jason Berthelette and his canine Aspen will give a presentation on how they work to keep people safe, with demonstrations at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

The Harrisville Fire Department will give presentations on how they respond when called to the scene of an overdose at 6 and 7 p.m.

Blanchette notes that because the event is geared toward families, the firefighters plan to keep things on the lighter side.

David Neill of the US Attorney’s Office will also give a presentation on the dangers of substances, and the increased presence of paraphernalia like e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

There will also be resource tables from organizations including the Rhode Island Department of Health, Well One, Community Care Alliance and the Burrillville Addiction Assistance Program.

For younger children, Principal Monica Thompson from Austin T Levy Elementary School will present less intense educational activities to give parents time to check out the features.

BPAC has held town hall-style events in the past, including a forum at the Assembly Theatre last year on the topic of opioids.

This year, the organization aims to offer something a little different, which educates guests on the effects of nicotine on the developing brain and body, and about the chemicals that are in today’s e-juices.

“The goal is for parents and kids to learn, so they can the information and can have those discussions,” said Blanchette.

Blanchette said she also hopes to help clear up some misconceptions about vaping.

“It’s an aerosol,” she said. “You’re taking in chemicals that really stick and stay in the body.”

Parents and children are encouraged to attend the free, interactive family event together. No tickets or registration is required, and pizza will be served.

For more information, contact Blanchette at (401) 710-7996 or mblanchette@burrillville.org.

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