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Skaneateles

John and GiGi Michel go through a simulation of a teenager's bedroom during a substance abuse and vaping education event at Skaneateles High School Thursday.

SKANEATELES — People were able to see how many signs of drug, alcohol and vaping use they could spot at a simulation of a teenager's bedroom at Skaneateles High School Thursday.

Kein Trease, community education coordinator for the not-for-profit Prevention Network in Syracuse, said there were over 60 instances of paraphernalia or references to drug, alcohol and vaping culture in the simulation.

Vaping refers to inhaling vapor made by an electronic cigarette or similar device that heats a substance containing nicotine. Participants were given a few minutes to find as many signs as they could.

GiGi Michel, going through the simulation with her husband, John, noticed a vaping device disguised as a USB drive. After they were done, they said there were dozens of instances or references they didn't notice — and that scared them. Paraphernalia hidden in the simulation included a Pringles can with a compartment in the bottom that substances could be hidden be in and a water bottle with a hollowed-out middle — hidden by a covering — and a top section with water.

The Michels said they have four children in the district — two in the high school — and don't believe any of them are abusing substances but want to be aware of what to potentially look for and "don't want to be naive," John said.

After the simulation, Trease told the crowd of over 20 people  during a panel with a group of experts and Skaneateles educators that he didn't want the simulation to scare parents or for parents to tear apart their child's bedroom looking for paraphernalia. He said parents know their children best and if parents were to go looking in their child's room, they may not find many of the things found in the simulation. He said he wanted people to have as much information as possible.

JoLynn Mulholland, project coordinator for the Cayuga County Drug Free Community Coalition, said she believes many vaping projects are marketed to young people and the flavors that products come in, ranging from blueberry to cheeseburger, appeal to them. She said vaping products  can be hidden in specially made clothing such as hooded shirts and hats. She and Lee Livermore of the Upstate New York Poison Center urged parents to be able to answer difficult questions about substance abuse from their children

Skaneateles High School Principal Gregory Santoro noted he had learned from the event and said parents and the school have to work together when dealing with vaping "in the best interest of our greatest investment, which is our children."

During the question and portion of the event, GiGi asked panelists where they believed local students were getting vape products. Mulholland said many of the middle and high school students she has talked to as a part of her job said they got their products online. She noted students often share their products.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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