Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland addresses the forum, while Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio listens. (Photo courtesy Sea Isle City)

With the possibility of legalized marijuana on New Jersey’s horizon, Sea Isle City’s Municipal Alliance Committee, Mayor Leonard Desiderio, the Sea Isle City Police Department and the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office hosted a marijuana and vaping awareness event titled “What’s Smoking in New Jersey?”

Douglas Collier, a former DEA special agent and Monmouth University Criminal Justice professor, explained the dangers of smoking marijuana and vaping tobacco products during the community forum on Feb. 8 in Sea Isle’s municipal gymnasium.

Over 150 educators, parents, grandparents, professionals and other concerned citizens attended the free event – some from as far away as Atlantic, Salem, Cumberland and Burlington counties.

During the presentation, Collier shocked audience members with a wide variety of facts and statistics, including how many people don’t understand how marijuana can adversely affect the brain and that kids often begin smoking pot because they think it is safe.

He went on to explain how the packaging of vaping products seems to be designed to attract youngsters and how the flavors of vaping products – such as bubble gum, mint and fruit punch – also appeal to kids.

Additionally, Collier explained that because vaping products are also often odorless, some students “vape” in classrooms and go undetected.

“Just because something is legal does not diminish the health risks,” said Sea Isle Police Chief Thomas McQuillen, who also spoke at the event. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to know all potential dangers. At this point, nobody knows the long-term health effects of vaping or the true risks associated with secondhand smoke from vaping.”

Former DEA Agent Douglas Collier gives attendees at the “What’s Smoking in New Jersey?” symposium some startling information about vaping and marijuana use.

Collier also explained five signs that may indicate that a child is vaping tobacco products: excessive thirst; flavorful aromas on their person; an intolerance to caffeine and a decline in the use of caffeinated drinks; carrying items that resemble writing pens but are actually vaping devices; and nose bleeds.

In addition to the many details shared by Professor Collier, numerous local service organizations were also in attendance to share literature and information, including Cape Counseling, CARA (the Coalition Against Rape and Abuse), CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children), CURE (Christians United for Recovery), Cape Assist, and the Cape May County Health Department.

Additionally, the County Prosecutor’s “Hope One” van was parked on site, allowing participants the opportunity to examine the mobile van and learn how it can deliver addiction services to persons in need.

“It was a very successful and informative event, and many people learned a great deal of information about vaping and marijuana use,” said Sea Isle Municipal Alliance Coordinator Kellie Seib.

“Also, it was truly a team effort, and it proved once again that we have a great city and a great county filled with people who are dedicated to educating and protecting the community,” Seib added. “A special thank you goes to our community partners, Wawa, Acme and First Bank of Sea Isle City, who helped make this event a huge success.

For more information about Sea Isle City’s Municipal Alliance Committee and how it strives to battle drug and alcohol abuse, visit Sea Isle’s municipal website at  or phone 609-263-4461, ext. 1222. To contact the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, call 609-465-1135.

Keynote speaker Douglas Collier, center, is joined by Cape May County Freeholders Jeffrey Pierson, E. Marie Hayes, Gerald Thornton and Leonard Desiderio, who is also Sea Isle’s mayor. (Photo courtesy Sea Isle City)