This is National Non-Smoking Week in Canada and Public Health officials are urging Canadians to put the butt out for good.
Nancy Skinner, tobacco reduction strategy coordinator with Public Health within the Pictou County Health Authority, said the week’s theme is to have smokers focus on the positive aspects of quitting smoking, rather than dwelling on the negative.
“Most people know that smoking is not healthy for them, but we want them to think about how could you live, work and play better smoke free, that’s the theme of the this week. How could you live, work and play even better?” she said. “It’s important that they weigh it out and consider stopping smoking for the positive things they want in their life.”
Skinner said Pictou County residents who want to quit smoking have several resources available to help them beat the habit through addiction services.
“The more support they have, the more successful people have proven to be. It’s not to say they can’t go cold turkey on their own, many people do, but the evidence certainly shows us that the more support they seek and the more support they have, the more successful they are,” she said.
Addiction Services in New Glasgow offers stop-smoking groups, which come with free nicotine replacements, Skinner said.
Dawn Peters, community outreach worker with addiction services, helps smokers quit through these programs.
“(When a client quits) I see general overall improvement in every aspect of their health in their breathing, in their level of exercise and the healthier food that they eat and in their self esteem, because if they can quit smoking, they feel like they can do anything,” Peters said. “Their biggest challenge is their own thinking patterns. If they don’t think they can do it, they’re not going to. They have to believe they can do it first before they can overcome any other obstacles.”
Peters said other obstacles include overcoming withdrawal, cravings and avoiding triggers such as being around other smokers and drinking, which lowers judgment.
The Smokers Help Line (1-877-513-5333) is also a resource that helps those looking to quit. The help line is a free service through which smokers can speak to a quit coach confidentially. Smokers can also find support by using the online program through the Smokers Help Line at HYPERLINK "http://www.smokershelpline.ca" www.smokershelpline.ca.
Skinner said a cigarette contains more than 700 chemicals, many of them poisonous, hundreds toxic and at least 70 cause cancer. She said cigarette smoking is associated with at least 14 types of cancer and about half of kidney and bladder cancers are caused by smoking.
“It also causes cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke. It can lead to diabetes. It’s associated with higher levels of cholesterol. It’s certainly well known that it causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, for example, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other breathing disorders,” she said.
“What a lot of folks might not be aware of is there are a number of really serious reproductive and developmental effects of smoking. It can affect male fertility and anomalies in their offspring such as cleft palate. For the females, it’s linked to placenta problems that can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth rates and so on.”
Skinner said this week is also about becoming aware of the effects of second- and third-hand smoke.
“When we’re talking about second-hand smoke, it is known to cause lung cancer and nasal and sinus cancer. There’s strong evidence that it increases your risk of breast cancer,” she said. “Third-hand smoke is the residual effect of smoke, what sits in fine particles on surfaces and dust in clothing, furniture, walls, carpets, cars.”
Skinner said third-hand smoke is especially harmful to children, who spend more time on carpets and putting their hands and objects in their mouths.
“Third-hand smoke sits on surfaces and combines and reacts with the air and forms new carcinogens.”
According to the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control, tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, killing 37,000 Canadians annually.
National Non-Smoking Week has taken place in Canada since 1977 and is organized by the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control.