Like many members of the HHS staff, social studies teacher Sam Gossett is on the lookout for vapers – but not for the reason you probably think.
He is offering help and anonymity to students who want to quit vaping or smoking.
“This is a program for kids who want to stop but don’t know how,” Gossett (Room 108) told The Ville News.
He said he can provide strategies to overcome nicotine cravings and to avoid the social/emotional “triggers” that often cause people to vape in the first place.
“My main goal is to just help kids stop doing something that’s bad for them,” Gossett said.
The penalty for vaping at HHS ranges from ISS to OSS and could even result in a court appearance if the offense is serious enough. But Assistant Principal Lisa Jaskot said students can go to Gossett in private and “without fear of getting in trouble.”
Gossett’s reasons for helping are personal.
“My maternal grandmother died of lung cancer when I was growing up, so dealing with a tobacco addiction is something I feel very passionate about,” he shared.
So far, students haven’t come forward, but he wants them to know that his “door is always open, every day, before school or during 3rd block, or even after school.”
There is clearly a need for help. The U.S. Surgeon General has called youth vaping an “epidemic” that could undermine decades of progress in curbing tobacco use among young people.
The Ville News recently interviewed about a dozen vapers to learn the reasons and extent of the problem. The students spoke on condition of anonymity.
The main reason most started was because their friends were doing it. It wasn’t peer pressure, necessarily, just something fun to do with friends.
“I really only vaped for popularity,” one student said. “I don’t even really like doing it.”
But in time, some confided, they felt addicted and have had trouble stopping.
Several said they vape to cope with stress from school, family, work, etc.
“I started vaping because I was stressed,” one said. “I vaped for about two months to help deal with the stress. I'm not addicted though.”
Others also described feeling “relaxed” when they vape.
“It calms me down,” one said.
The final reason students said they vaped was to wean themselves from cigarettes, chewing tobacco or marijuana. Right or wrong, they view vaping as a safer alternative with fewer legal risks.
“I started so I would get off of smoking,” one explained. “I only smoked because my life has been really hard and I needed to cope. I was extremely addicted to smoking and vaping helped me get off cigarettes.”
Regardless of the reasons, Gossett thinks he can help. And with nothing to lose, students would seem wise to accept his offer.
Story by Corrine Mitchener and Zach Pearson