A vaping cessation program returns to Westport


The recent outbreak of nicotine addiction and positive feedback from previous programs has led to a return of the vaping cessation program in Westport.

According to a recent study by The Hub, 45% of Fairfield County high school juniors and seniors and 25% of freshman and sophomores reported vaping in the last month. In a 2018 survey, 12% of Fairfield County high school students say they have vaped marijuana in the last month. 

These numbers and the recent deaths due to vaping have created a renewed focus on prevention and intervention programs across the United States. In Westport, town officials have been combating substance abuse through educational campaigns, public education forums and most recently, an evidence-based smoking cessation program with the renowned Caron Treatment Center. 

The Caron Treatment Centers began as Project CONNECT is a program to help people quit smoking tobacco, but its main goal is to help change behaviors, regardless of the substance or habit. Maggie Burchill, the Student Assistance Specialist for the NY/CT Region of Caron Treatment Centers, explains how nicotine is a highly addictive drug which makes it so hard for people to quit.

“The majority of students who are addicted to nicotine WANT to quit, but they need support to do it,” Burchill wrote.

The majority of students who are addicted to nicotine WANT to quit, but they need support to do it.

— Maggie Burchill

Alongside Burchill, Kevin Godburn, the youth services program director, has helped make this program happen, thanks to funding from the Westport Police Department. Last spring they piloted the program attracting 8-10 kids per session. This fall, they hope to engage more kids in working towards quitting. It’s an eight-session program that meets for an hour a week.

Its goal is to provide support to those trying to quit and help them come up with a plan and develop the skills they need to find their own success. It’s a way to empower adolescents. 

“This program educated me and made me aware of the cons of vaping,” an anonymous Staples senior boy said. “I would recommend the program to people struggling so they aren’t as ignorant as others.”

Kids who participate in this program typically enroll themselves. 

“If we can help even a few kids find success in reducing or ending their addiction to nicotine, we need to do what we can to help,” Godburn said. 

With the new research and skyrocket of nicotine addiction, this program is crucial in educating kids on topics including the health effects of nicotine addiction, healthy decisions and lifestyles, stress management and social skills. 

Vaping-related lung illnesses have struck hundreds, killing eight.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 530 cases of lung injury in 38 states and one U.S. territory. The CDC has confirmed eight deaths in seven states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Oregon. While most of the patients affected used e-cigarette products with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), some of the patients reported vaping only nicotine. The CDC is regularly providing updates on the outbreak.

The feedback from their last program encouraged them to bring back the program. They received positive feedback and, according to Caron’s data, the success rate for this program is 55% for the students who came in wanting to quit.