Healthy Living in the North

It’s all about the big picture

This article was co-written by Reg Wulff and Doreen Bond. Learn more about all of our contributors.


20160630-RWulff-470x394Did you read our last blog post about the rollout of Northern Health’s new and improved Smoke Free Grounds policy? Now that you’ve had a bit of time to think about it, it might seem like it’s all about telling people where they can’t smoke or use vapour products. However, the Smoke Free Grounds policy isn’t only about telling people that they can’t smoke on Northern Health property; it’s actually part of a bigger picture when it comes to Northern Health’s efforts to reduce tobacco use.

Northern Health is committed to addressing tobacco use as a standard of care. In addition to the Smoke Free Grounds policy, we’ve implemented three new clinical practice standards to give our nursing staff some tools to help tobacco users manage withdrawal symptoms and get support when it comes to quitting smoking. These standards are: Brief Intervention Training for nurses, the Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol, and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action.

What does this mean for you?

Using Brief Intervention, nurses can quickly identify patients who use tobacco. It helps nurses figure out who might need nicotine replacement therapy products such as the nicotine patch while in Northern Health facilities. Brief Intervention is very simple and it only takes a couple of minutes.

Then there’s the Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action. I know they sound like fancy terms, but their purpose is quite simple: these two standards give nurses an opportunity to provide tobacco users with nicotine replacement therapy products for a short period until a doctor’s order can be obtained.

Going through nicotine withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable for a tobacco user. Providing a nicotine patch can help ease withdrawal symptoms for patients who use tobacco. The three clinical practice standards are about enabling nursing staff to take action and help tobacco users manage their withdrawal symptoms.

The Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action also contribute to patient safety. They provide another option for patients who might put themselves at risk by leaving Northern Health grounds to have a smoke. After all, though they seem like distant memories now, winter conditions in the north can be dangerous for anyone, let alone patients who use wheelchairs or have IV poles to deal with.

Creating a healthy environment is essential for the wellness of patients, residents, visitors, and staff who access or work in Northern Health facilities. Northern Health wants to lead by example and provide a healthy environment for everyone where they live, work, and play. The refreshed Smoke Free Grounds policy and the three clinical practice standards are important pieces of creating that healthy environment.

So remember, if you’re a tobacco user who is about to enter a Northern Health facility, the Smoke Free Grounds policy is about everyone’s health! If you need help managing nicotine withdrawal symptoms while in facility, talk to your nurse. There is help available.

Quitting smoking can greatly improve your health and help you live longer. For more information and support, contact HealthLink BC by dialing 8-1-1 or visit QuitNow.

If you’re interested in getting 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy products, talk to your local pharmacist.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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The challenge of quitting smoking during pregnancy and staying quit after delivery

Woman smoking beside a field.

Avoiding tobacco use will improve the health of your whole family before, during and after pregnancy.

Want to improve your own health and protect your developing baby from the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco smoke? Women and their partners who use tobacco during pregnancy are encouraged to quit!

Why quit?

Maternal smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and early detachment of the placenta. Smoking is also linked to growth restriction during pregnancy and low birth weight. Although a smaller baby may mean an easier labour and delivery, low birth weight is a predictor of decreased newborn health and survival.

After a child is born, infants of women who smoke are three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have an increased risk of respiratory problems and increased severity of asthma.

When to quit?

Ideally, women and their partners should quit using tobacco prior to pregnancy but if not, then it is important to quit anytime during pregnancy. Every day is a good day to quit smoking!

Support to help you quit smoking and protect your family

Although tobacco dependence is a complex addiction with many factors that make it difficult to quit, many women have been able to quit during their pregnancy.

Women are aware that smoking is not good for their health or the health of their babies and so many are very motivated to quit. It’s sometimes difficult to quit during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy speeds up a woman’s metabolism and she may find that she is smoking even more to relieve her cravings.
  • Pregnancy is sometimes a stressful time.
  • A woman’s social network may use tobacco and she may feel left out.

Understanding these factors may help in the development of plan to quit smoking.

Many women wonder if they can use nicotine replacement therapy such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge or inhalers when they are pregnant. Opinions vary on the use of these products in pregnancy so women should discuss the use of these products with their physician or pharmacist. Intermittent dosing of nicotine replacement therapies such as lozenges, gum or inhaler are preferred over continuous dosing of the patch.

It is likely that nicotine replacement therapy is safer than cigarette smoking as the mother and baby are only exposed to nicotine and none of the other 8,000+ chemicals in cigarette smoke. If you use nicotine replacement therapy instead of smoking cigarettes, the mother and baby are not exposed to the carbon monoxide that reduces oxygen uptake and flow to the developing baby.

Many women are able to quit during their pregnancy and enjoy the positive health effects that come with quitting. It’s important to plan how to stay quit once the baby is delivered as relapse is common after the baby is born.

For information and free support to help you quit, visit QuitNow, call 1-877-455-2233, or ask your pharmacist about the BC Smoking Cessation Program. Do you or a loved one have a quit story? Share it for your chance to win a Fitbit!

Let’s raise children in tobacco free families!


This article was first published in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine. Check out the full issue below!

 

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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World No Tobacco Day – Quit story contest

Pile of cigarettes with red ban  crossing over top

Quitting is hard, what’s your story? Share for a chance to win.

Quitting smoking is hard, what’s your story? Share it for your chance to win a Fitbit!

Today we recognize World No Tobacco Day and we can all consider making some changes in our lives towards better health. Tobacco use touches most of us, even non-smokers, as we see people in our lives light up around us and breathe in second-hand smoke. The sad truth is that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death –more than alcohol, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

In recognition of the challenges in quitting, we’re launching a contest where you can share your quit story and be entered to win a Fitbit wireless activity wristband. This can be your personal story quitting (or trying to quit) smoking, or your experience with someone in your life doing so. Your story may encourage someone to quit!

Share your story for your chance to win!

Need some inspiration? Here’s a short quit story from Anthony of Gitwinksihlkw via QuitNow.ca:

I worked in camps at the time, on one of my times off, I got to thinking, why do I have to go so far just to have a smoke, hiding from my nephews and nieces, telling them what I do are bad for them? I got tired of being a hypocrite, so when I returned to camp before Christmas, I just did not bring any cigarettes with me. 4 weeks in camp was the hardest time in years. But I never looked back, over a year later and I feel great. 15 years I smoked, realized I was quitting for the wrong reasons in the past. I needed to quit for myself and not for others.

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Learn to quit by quitting

Woman smoking a cigarette beside a soccer field

What’s stopping you from quitting today? For Jim, it took several quit attempts. Remember to learn from those attempts! Learn to quit by quitting!

It was a day like any other day. But, as it happened, this day was going to be different.

I was typing on my home computer and then at precisely 3:00 p.m., I took a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, crushed them, and threw them in the trash. It was March 21, 2001, and I had just quit smoking, this time for good.

That was my hope, anyways, and that’s how it turned out.

I have heard it said many times that this is the way that some people stop. “Out of the blue, I just quit,” they say. I admire that. For me, that wasn’t quite the case. Yes, I crushed the smokes and yes, I quit, but I was using a nicotine patch and if memory serves me correctly, I may have been using one to reduce my intake just before I quit.

The day after my quit, after talking to my pharmacist, I wore two patches, a 21 mg and a 14 mg, and I gradually reduced these as the weeks off cigarettes turned to months and then to years.

I should say a little about using the nicotine patch before quitting. Although it’s best to stop smoking completely when you are using the patch, if you still smoke a few cigarettes, it’s okay as long as you are not getting more nicotine than your body is used to. I am speaking from experience here, of course, but studies have suggested that I might just be correct.

At the end of the day, this quit attempt for me was the last in a long history of multiple efforts over many years. I now know that I am the type of person who really needed to be pushed in order to quit. For most people, it takes an average of five quit attempts before they can stop for good.

So what’s the moral of this story? Well, it seems that for most smokers, we learn to stop by stopping.

In my experience, there are times in life when stopping might be even harder such as when there is major stress in your life. For example, for me, I wouldn’t have tried quitting during exams. Instead, wait till the sea calms a bit, then throw in your hook. Some people won’t agree with that statement but in my experience, it rings true. Remember that every quit attempt gets you closer to success but there is no value in needless suffering.

That said, this of course is why you need to stop: so that you do not bring needless suffering upon yourself in the form of lung disease or cancer.

Learn from your previous attempts. What went wrong? Did you tell yourself “just one”? Did you get so bad-tempered that just you “had” to have a cigarette and let everybody live in peace? Don’t look at those attempts as failures. Use that experience to help you quit for good this time!

As we settle into the new year – and given the fact that New Year’s resolutions are usually not all that successful – why not try to learn to stop by stopping again?

You never know – it might just be the last time you have to do it!

Do you need some resources to help you quit?

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Make more of Movember

Man wearing a safety vest and nicotine replacement patch working near train tracks.

Make the most out of Movember! Get a check-up, protect your assets, set a quit date, and get up and move!

It’s Movember again; a time for all clean-shaven men to put away the razor and embark on a hair-raising journey. Although the extra fuzz likely comes in handy in northern B.C. this time of year, let’s not forget that Movember is about more than just moustaches!

We know that men in the north aren’t living as long as men in other parts of Canada, and we know that they’re dying of causes that are – in many cases – preventable, such as heart disease, cancer, and injury. So this November, get a jump on the new year and make some resolutions to improve your health (if you’re a man) or the health of a man in your life! Here are some ideas to get you going: 

Get a check-up

Don’t wait until you’re already sick! Make Movember your annual reminder to go and visit your doctor. Not sure what you need to get checked out at your age? Check out our Men’s Health MANual online

Get up and move

Whether at home or at work, try to sit less and move more. Walking is the easiest way to get started, and requires the least amount of equipment. Take another guy with you, and help improve his health at the same time!

Set a quit date

There’s no better day to quit smoking than today! It’s the single best thing you can do to improve your health! If you’ve been thinking about quitting, but are looking for some help call HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1, or check out quitnow.ca

Protect your assets

Seatbelts and helmets let you work and play hard, but most importantly they improve your chances of making it home to your families at the end of the day!

So this year when the ‘staches emerge let them inspire you to put your health at the top of your to-do list. Men’s health matters, because men matter!

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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Keep Your Breath

A man rides a bike

Smoking will be detrimental to your physical performance.

I have to admit, it’s been a great summer. The decent weather has let me ride my bike to work often and encouraged me to work towards my goal of running five kilometers. With all this exercise, I’m feeling great.

But it’s not going to last forever, the decent weather that is. When it’s cold and wet, the last thing I want to do is go for a run or hop on my bike. Fortunately for me, hockey is just around the corner. For others, sports such as basketball, racquetball, squash, volleyball, indoor badminton and floor hockey may be appealing ways to keep active over the winter.

Typically, when you think of these activities, you don’t think of smoking, but how often do you see someone having a smoke outside the arena or recreation center? Some of the guys I’ve played hockey with have told me that a smoke before the game “picks them up” and “helps them focus.” However, smoking is not going to help your game in the end.

A 2013 study of female university athletes looked at the effect of smoking on athletic performance. In this study, 12 smokers and 21 non-smokers were asked to perform stress tests and six shuttle run tests to determine the impacts of smoking on aerobic capacity and anaerobic capacity.* What the researchers found was:

  • During shuttle runs four to six, the smokers’ average power decreased significantly.
  • Non-smokers were able to take in and use more oxygen during intense exercise.
  • The smoking group was less capable of dealing with fatigue.
  • Smoking impaired the athletes’ ability to recover after high intensity exercise.

Another study that examined the effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system noted a 10% decrease in the time smokers could exercise before becoming exhausted. This was attributed to a lack of available oxygen to the muscles.

Sports like hockey, basketball and racquetball all require short, intense bursts of speed and/or power that are anaerobic in nature. As the studies show, smoking has a negative impact on our body’s ability to absorb and use oxygen. This results in a loss of power, endurance, and a decreased ability to recover from intense activity.

If you have a quick smoke before the game, it’s going to catch up with you. In the second or third period, you’ll be gasping for air on the bench between shifts and lagging behind the play when you’re on the ice. That awe-inspiring, highlight reel move is going to be harder to pull off when the power in your legs is used up in the first half of the game.

Is that bit of a pick-up worth a weak finish? I don’t think so.

If you or some you know wants to quit using tobacco, they can receive free counselling and free nicotine replacement products through provincial programs.

*Anaerobic exercises are done with maximum intensity for short bursts (i.e. sprinting) where the energy requirement of the body exceeds that provided by breathing, and therefore, the body is forced to work without oxygen.  Aerobic exercises are the ones where oxygen is used to produce energy in order to fuel the body for a prolonged activity (i.e., marathon running)

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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World No Tobacco Day: Thumbs-down to smoking in movies!

World No Tobacco Day

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day.

Today, May 31, marks World No Tobacco Day – an annual day of observance that highlights health risks caused by tobacco use. Each year since 1987, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners around the world mark World No Tobacco Day by highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. This year, the WHO is focusing on the importance of banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Over the past decades, BC and Canada have made tremendous gains in de-normalizing tobacco use through education, regulation and taxation. We have seen smoking rates creeping down – slowly and steadily. In 1965, 50% of Canadian adults smoked, and by 2009 this number was reduced to 17.5% (15% in BC).

Despite this remarkable progress, health promotion advocates continue to be concerned about the smoking rate of young adults – which at 23% is much higher than the national average for everyone over 15. Many health promotion organizations are worried that tobacco companies are investing in marketing tobacco products to youth and young adults.

The Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada estimates that 44% of 15 – 19 year old tobacco users were influenced to start by smoking seen in the movies (including brand and product placement). Sadly, they also estimate that 43,000 of those Canadian teens will die prematurely.

Evidence shows that comprehensive advertising bans lead to reductions in the numbers of people starting and continuing smoking. Statistics show that banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce tobacco demand and therefore a tobacco control “best buy.”

To help reduce tobacco use, comprehensive advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans work to counteract:

  • the deceptive and misleading nature of tobacco marketing campaigns
  • the unavoidable exposure of youth to tobacco marketing;
  • the failure of the tobacco industry to effectively self-regulate
  • the ineffectiveness of partial bans

The ultimate goal of World No Tobacco Day is to collaborate to protect present and future generations not only from these devastating health consequences, but also against the social, environmental and economic impacts of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Northern Health, along with the WHO and its partners, supports World No Tobacco Day and is committed to making our communities healthier places to live, work and play.

World No Tobacco Day or not, any day is a good day to quit using tobacco.

For support on quitting, contact:

Lee Cameron

About Lee Cameron

Lee Cameron has worked as a regional tobacco reduction coordinator within Northern Health’s population health team since 2005. Lee lives in Terrace and calls the northwest home. Outside of work she enjoys kayaking, canoeing, hiking and fishing. Lee is a strong advocate for smoke-free spaces and the fresh air that they provide.

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Tales from the Man Cave: World No Tobacco Day is coming soon

nicotine replacement therapy

With World No Tobacco Day approaching, make a “no tobacco day in your world.”

It has been more than 12 years since I last smoked a cigarette. Every now and again I feel the pull of this addiction, passing a smoker or having it catch my breath. I withdraw quite strenuously from that, of course, but it underlines the chronic relapsing nature of the addiction for me.

People addicted to tobacco are at the mercy of a brutal master, who cracks the whip every 45 minutes or so. We addicts would say we enjoy smoking; the truth, however, points more to enjoying the sensation of pain relief, as we reduce the craving.

Many of us started as kids, teenagers in many cases, and in my particular case as a nine-year-old. Many young men start in the workplace in their early 20s as they attempt to fit in and not stand out. These days we know that exposure to nicotine can cause an addiction in as little as two weeks.

The cure to addiction is at the other end of the crisis – withdrawal – and one must live through it, let it do its worst and gradually accommodate to the unpleasant feelings, while waiting for the brain to repair and adjust to the absence of the substance.

In this way, nicotine is very much like any other addiction, but one way in which it differs is that today we can use the substance itself in the form of replacement therapy to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco. Gum would be a good replacement for chew for example and deliver very similar effects.

Personally, I am not big on having “no” days such as World No Tobacco Day as a quit day but it gives the opportunity to know the enemy.

So slap a patch on and observe how your day goes. If it’s not so difficult for you, brilliant, maybe you can stay stopped. If it was awful, mark it as a practice day and resolve to practice again soon. The more you practice, the less power it will have over you.

Feel free to challenge yourself – who’s in the driving seat, you or tobacco? You might be surprised at the results.

In any case World No Tobacco Day reminds us that it’s estimated that one billion people are expected to die in this century from tobacco related disease. That’s right 1,000,000,000 people. Astronomical, isn’t it? Don’t be one of them, regardless of when World No Tobacco Day is, make a no tobacco day in your world, and take on this Northern Health tobacco reduction message:

It’s HARD to quit…and you CAN do it.

Other resources:

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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