CATSKILL, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It all starts with awareness. That was the message from officials Tuesday in Greene County as they addressed concerns over underage drug use with classrooms back open this fall.

At a news conference in Catskill, those officials shared how an ordinary back to school item such as a highlighter can be used as a pipe. “While I don’t say this to you to inspire you to tear apart every household object in your kid’s rooms. We wanted to raise awareness of just how crafty companies are and kids have gotten in hiding drug use from their parents,” explained Assemblyman Chris Tague.

Greene County legislator Matt Luvera, who is also a fourth-grade teacher, says school should play a role in educating kids about drug use, but ultimately it comes down to parents to be diligent about what their kids are up to.

“We play a role as a partner,” says Luvera, “we’re not the only resource but anything we can do and work on together I think is important and through health classes, guidance counselors, and through teachers having these conversations with their students is important and it’s a good first step.”

While much of the presentation surrounded around the usage of marijuana, which is now legal in New York State, Karen dePeyster with Tobacco-Free Action of Columbia and Greene counties says tobacco usage, especially in the form of e-cigarettes, still remains present among school aged kids. “The bad news is the culture of smoking has morphed into the culture of vaping. And probably 20-25% of high school students and maybe a little less than that of middle school students are vaping. It’s a huge, huge problem in schools. We get calls from schools all the time to come in and do education around the harmful effects of vaping.” 

According to the National Institute of Health, in 2021, substance abuse among adolescents decreased primarily because schools were not fully in-person for learning.