Retired DEA agent talks with residents about teenage e-cigarette usage


EAST BRUNSWICK–Educating residents about vaping, e-cigarettes and drug prevention, professor and retired Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agent Doug Collier delivered a “Smoke Screen” presentation.

The East Brunswick Municipal Alliance and the East Brunswick Public School District served as the co-hosts of the event where Collier gave a presentation about how vaping and electronic cigarettes affect teens, on March 20 at Hammarskjold Middle School.

Supervisor of Student Services Danielle Blalock said, “I am also a parent and I am also a community member that has been very active in the Municipal Alliance in East Brunswick for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse within the town. We are very lucky that the Municipal Alliance provides a lot of grant funding within the district and was able to provide additional support services within the health classes to further educate our students about drug and alcohol abuse and prevention.” 

Blalock said that for many other schools, vaping and e-cigarette usage is a hot topic and that many parents are confused due to lack of information. 

On March 20, Collier also spoke to 10th grade students at East Brunswick High School where his presentation was also live-streamed so that all the students at Churchhill Junior High and the rest of the high school could listen in, according to Blalock.

Collier said he does a lot of drug prevention outreach education throughout the United States and worked for the DEA for 27 years as a federal agent for education and outreach. He is also a professor at Monmouth University.

“Juuling is named after an electronic cigarette company Juul Labs. The Juul heats up liquid nicotine that the user inhales made for adult smokers looking to quit cigarettes,” Collier said. “The company features flavors like cool mint, fruit medley and other flavors. The capsules or pods contain roughly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.” 

Collier said that vapes, e-cigarettes and Juuls are all the same.

“The original methodology for this product, which is called the Electric Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) – keep that in mind,” Collier said. “This product has helped people like my grandfather that was addicted to nicotine, helped him titrate (adjust) off of that drug so ultimately he could stop smoking.”

Collier said the e-cigarette and vaping business is a billion dollar industry that targets youth. Vaping usage continues to increase every year and the long-term effects of using vapes are unknown because it’s a new product.

Juul is a $13 billion company that deals with Marlboro, the well-known cigarette company, according to Collier.

Besides nicotine, Collier said there is also propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, which both are considered safe and acceptable substances to be disgested, in small amounts; however, when a user vapes he/she is inhaling these substances. 

With every vaping and e-cigarette device having a removable cartridge, Collier said, “What is disturbing is [the removable carriage] changed the landscape. What we are seeing here is an open system where you actually put liquid into a vape … and that liquid concerns us in law enforcement. It concerns us because we are seeing contraband, we are seeing other drugs [such as] methylene dioxide, meth, MDMA, flacka and hash oil.” 

Collier said teens sometimes vape because they believe they are just inhaling flavors, and teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than cigarettes due to being uneducated. He said they don’t realize the nicotine causes addiction.

“[The] attitude and aptitude of people that do this, including adolescents, is ‘less harmful than regular cigarettes.’ What does that tell us? We did a very good job educating people about cigarettes,” Collier said. “We have to educate [people and teens] because they don’t think it’s a cigarette, they don’t think it’s nicotine.” 

Side effects may include heart and circulation problems, chest pains, increase in blood pressure, increase in heart rate due to nicotine restricting the blood vessels, vomiting and nausea, according to Collier.

Some signs that a teen might be vaping, Juuling and/or using an e-cigarette can include: smelling unusual scents such as bubble gum or mint; possessing devices that have not been seen before; drinking liquids excessively; getting nose bleeds; and not drinking products that contain caffeine such as coffee and/or energy drinks. 

Collier said a recent “Monitoring the Future” study found there has been a great increase in vaping usage in the two past years. 

“The other thing we see here is that nicotine and marijuana increased,” Collier said. “So now we know and it’s important to understand this when the perception of a drug goes down, the use increases.” 

Blalock said according to the district’s tobacco policy, tobacco is not allowed on school grounds. So whether a student is smoking tobacco in the vape or he/she is smoking other substances in the vape, the student is going to be sent to the nurse for a drug screening.

“The reason for this is because we don’t know what substance is in the vape. When we speak to the students primarily they tell us that most students are smoking marijuana in a vape,” Blalock said. “Most of them are not smoking nicotine, there are some that are smoking nicotine, but the majority of them do seem to be smoking marijuana or other legal substances.” 

For the first offense, Blalock said if a student is caught vaping within the school district the device will be confiscated and he/she will be subject to a drug screen in the nurse’s office as well as being sent to a medical doctor at the district’s expense to make sure he/she is OK medically.

“If that drug screen comes back positive then they would be subjected to the consequences, which would be three days out of school suspension,” Blalock said. “If it is not positive for illegal substances then they would be subject to one-day Saturday detention and at that Saturday detention, they would be doing an online program that the district is purchasing for vaping education.”

The district also has a self-disclosure policy, where if a student comes forward for help and states he/she may have a drug or alcohol issue/concern, the student will receive no punitive consequences.

“We have a student assistance specialist for every single grade so in addition to their school counselors they also have a student assistance specialist that specializes in helping students with drug- and alcohol-related issues,” Blalock said. “If a student comes to them for help they will get them help and keep it confidential, put them on a program and connect them with services including counseling within and outside of school, with no punishment.” 

If a student reaches a third offense, Blalock said the student’s case will go to a Board of Education hearing and the board will listen to the case and make a determination as to whether or not there will be a long-term suspension or if the student is allowed to remain in school or an alternative educational program.

To curb students smoking in the bathrooms, Blalock said, “Some of the bathrooms have been closed. There are signs in all of the bathrooms to remind the students that [smoking] is not allowed. Students are also now required to sign in and out of the bathrooms so that we have a record.” 

“Our best strategy is prevention and it’s not about arresting anyone, it’s about educating. … Prevention is critically important, that’s why it is important that your Municipal Alliance, the county and your schools are all working together. That’s the solution, not me, but all of us and what we can do and what you can do as parents,” Collier said. 

Contact Vashti Harris at

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