Many resources to help smokers butt out for National Non-Smoking Week

National Non-Smoking Week, which wraps up Saturday, includes many options to help smokers break the habit

  • Jan. 20, 2012 2:00 p.m.

Breaking up is hard to do, especially when it’s with an addictive habit like smoking.

While that’s this year’s theme for National Non-Smoking Week, which wraps up Saturday, the year-round message may help quitters breathe a little easier when facing the challenge of butting out.

“I think one thing we’ve really learned in the last five or 10 years is that in the past we used to just sort of depend on will power and people felt like they failed if they didn’t quit just trying to white knuckle it through,” said Trish Hill, senior tobacco reduction coordinator for Interior Health.

“Medications really can help, and medications work even better if they’re combined with some kind of counselling.”

J. L. Crowe Secondary School is starting up a new student-led tobacco prevention and resource support group to address just this.

In mid-February, 15 students plan on attending a tobacco cessation workshop that will teach them how to help support their peers in making healthy choices.

“Having the students lead it is pretty impactful I think,” said Karen Perreault, child and youth care worker at the Crowe. “That kind of culture in the school is key.”

While Perreault couldn’t say how many Crowe students do smoke, she mentioned that School District 20 has a no smoking policy.

“That’s not necessarily where this drummed up from,” she added. “I think it’s just kids taking more interest in health and healthy choices and wanting to take a leadership role.”

While details are still being worked out, Perreault said the school won’t hand out cessation aids but instead will direct students to local resources such as what’s offered at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.

A respiratory services program started up primarily for high-risk people who suffer from asthma or other respiratory diseases and are trying to kick nicotine.

Leading counsellors who specialize in tobacco dependency, professional practice leader Greg Rollins also works with nurses at the Trail hospital to ensure they’re confident when dealing with smokers.

Through open-ended questions, counsellors address the importance of quitting, set up a quit date, help with coping strategies, medical options and follow up with additional support.

Rollins was a winner of the 2010 Smoke Free Champions for Change Award, an Interior Health annual award that honours people who have made a difference in the lives of others by promoting smoke-free spaces, helping people quit smoking and preventing people from starting to smoke.

Nominations for individuals like this opened this week, with a closing date of April 13. Six people will be recognized with the title as well as a $50 gift certificate that will be given out on World No Tobacco Day, May 31.

“The cool thing about the smoke-free champions awards is that we hear these incredibly inspiring stories about people, like the smoke free champ in the school or the smoke free champ who’s at the work place, who aren’t connected in anyway to public health at all,” said Hill. “We’re trying to really honour people who go above and beyond their regular daily life to show some leadership and provide support to people who are quitting smoking or who are thinking about it.”

Of the 106,000 people tracked as smokers in the Interior Health region, about 70 per cent (70,000) want to quit, according to Hill.

“The attitudes have changed, people are much more aware now that tobacco smoke is an incredibly dangerous toxic substance and our smoking rates continue to go down,” she said. “B.C has the lowest smoking rate in Canada, the Southern Interior has a higher smoking rate than the provincial average but the trend is moving down and down and down.”

Outlets such as B.C.’s Smoking Cessation Program, which launched last September, helps people to stop smoking and using other tobacco products by assisting with the cost of smoking cessation aids.

The program, which has led to more than 60,000 people in the province calling 8-1-1 for free access to nicotine replacement therapies, hooks up B.C. residents enrolled with the Medical Services Plan with PharmaCare coverage of a single continuous course of treatment of a prescription smoking cessation drug or a 12-week supply of a nicotine replacement gum or patches.

Once registered, residents can receive further support through QuitNow Services (www.quitnow.ca).

Nomination forms for the Smoke Free Champions for Change are available at www.interiorhealth.ca and can be submitted online, faxed to 250-505-7211 or mailed to Smoke Free Champions for Change, Nelson Health Unit 2nd Floor, 333 Victoria St., Nelson, V1L 4K3.