Healthy Living in the North

The end game: What are your bold new ideas to reduce the harmful and costly effects of tobacco use?

Mascot with smoke-free spaces sign

The 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George were smoke-free! What are your bold ideas to contribute to tobacco-free communities?

You probably have a friend or family member who has experienced one or more of the debilitating diseases caused by smoking or chewing tobacco.

Tobacco use* remains the leading cause of premature death in Canada and kills over 37,000 Canadians every year. Tobacco kills half the people who use it and is also harmful to the people breathing second-hand smoke.

Although there has been a significant reduction in tobacco use over the last several decades, 15 per cent of Canadians still smoke. In our northern communities, the rate is over 20 per cent. Even though everyone knows that smoking or chewing tobacco hurts our bodies, over 100,000 Canadians start smoking daily every year. Most of these are youth.

We need a bold, new approach to reduce the use of this deadly product!

In partnership with all Canadians, the Government of Canada has set a goal to reduce the rate of tobacco use to five per cent by 2035. You can help make this happen! Is there something that you can do in your community to help youth stay tobacco-free or to help current tobacco users reduce or quit? Let the government know!

The Federal Tobacco Control Strategy ends March 2018. The Government of Canada is seeking input from interested Canadians to plan a new approach to radically reduce the use of tobacco in our country. Provide your feedback on the future of tobacco control in Canada. You can provide feedback by email or mail. Feedback must be received by April 13, 2017.

Contribute to helping Canadians to lead healthier, tobacco-free lives! Take part in the consultations on the future of tobacco control in Canada.

*In this story, as in most public health messages, “tobacco use” refers to the use of commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco as opposed to traditional uses of tobacco. Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional uses can outweigh the potential harms.

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.


Quitting is hard, what’s your story? Wrap-up and Fitbit winner!

20160614-QuitStoriesWrapUpSince World No Tobacco Day (May 30) Northerners have been sharing their ‘Quit Stories’. I’d like to share a few more of the stories that came in, but first, many congratulations out to Melanie in Fort St. John whose name was drawn in the story entry contest to win a Fitbit Activity Tracker. Congratulations Melanie!

You may remember reading Melanie’s positive quit story. She shared that after several attempts using a variety of methods she is currently 6 months smoke-free! Her parting words:

If you really want something you will achieve it!

We know quitting is hard, and for some, the quit comes when it absolutely has to. As in this story shared by Erica in Prince George:

My brother has smoked for 36 years. Recently he had pneumonia and a collapsed lung. It was only then that he quit. He always wanted to, but said that he would go through such bad withdrawals that he would just start smoking again. A doctor he saw, told him that his lung capacity was only about 38%, and that he needed to quit right away. This scared him so badly, that he quit. The truth was that he was so sick, that he could not smoke, he could hardly breathe. Now he tells me it was the best thing he ever did for himself. It was just too bad that it took such an extreme situation for him to quit.

Nicole, in Terrace, found health a strong motivator too – but realized quickly how much money she saved as well!:

I moved to Terrace in 2008. After 10 years of smoking, and being an asthmatic, I had been hospitalized hundreds of times. Each time becoming more and more serious. When we moved I felt this would be a great time to quit, new town new me. It was incredibly hard. I never thought about the stress of a new town along with the cravings to smoke and at the time my partner was still smoking. I continued and was successful and then was able to encourage my partner who then quit in Dec of the same year. It’s been 8 years now and we are both healthier and happier. The monies we saved from smoking we now use to go on holidays. We continued to move the money we were spending on cigarettes into an account we opened and labelled “holiday” it’s amazing how much money we were spending without realizing it. This gave us a twofold benefit. We are healthier and we have holiday money which we were not previously making a priority.

Many more stories came in and I wish I could list them all, but space will allow me only to thank everyone who shared their quit story and entered the contest. We are all touched by tobacco use and it takes a lot of hard work and determination to quit –but it helps everyone around you when you do.

Do you want to quit? Speak with your health care provider and for information and free support to help you, visit QuitNow or call 1-877-455-2233. You can also ask your pharmacist how to access information and FREE nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!


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.


National Non Smoking Week: Plan to make 2016 your smoke free year logo

Want to access online support and counselling as part of your plan to quit smoking this year? QuitNow has free services available to support you!

Today is the start of National Non Smoking Week! Many tobacco users use this opportunity to quit smoking. It often takes a few tries to successfully quit smoking. The more you are prepared, the more likely it is that you will succeed.

There are many reasons why people smoke, but 70% of tobacco users want to quit and many wish that they had never started. If you have tried to quit before, think about that experience and recognize what worked and also what made you relapse.

Nicotine is a very addictive substance and causes uncomfortable withdrawal when you go for a period of time without smoking. Smoking is also a learned behaviour that you may associate with certain feelings or activities. It may also be a social activity for some. The addiction is quite complex and unique to each individual.

Because of this, I recommend that you keep a diary of your smoking prior to quitting to identify your triggers and to help you change your behavior to reduce your smoking. Record what you were doing when you decided to smoke and why you feel you need one. You may even find that you reduce the amount you smoke prior to quitting.

Try to write down your goals and how you will achieve them:

  • Are you going to use nicotine replacement therapy or other medications? If so, check out the BC Smoking Cessation Program for free products.
  • Are you going to tell your friends to gain support or are you going to keep it to yourself?
  • Are you going to access online support and counselling through QuitNow services?
  • What is your measure of success? Have you completely quit or cut back? Are you still craving?

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. You will feel better, have more money in your pocket and no longer have to worry about quitting!

The BC Smoking Cessation Program is now easier than ever to access. As of January 1, 2016, you can get 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy products (including gum, patches, lozenges, and inhalers) just by visiting any pharmacy in the province. You may also qualify for assistance for other tobacco cessation medications. For more information, visit or call HealthLink (8-1-1).

Every day is a good day to quit smoking. Plan to make 2016 your smoke free year!

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.


Tales from the Man Cave: The sacred and the evil

Charred pack of cigarettes

Jim’s got a fiery message on the heels of World No Tobacco Day: there is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke. There is more support than ever to quit!

Tobacco is not an evil thing in and of itself. It has been used ceremonially for eons in Aboriginal cultures and even used by some for medicinal purposes. As a sacred gift, it has been given and used as a way of making peace or a contract. Historically, it is a very important plant. It has also been used as a pesticide, but this use has largely stopped because it’s also very poisonous when eaten.

Tobacco smoke it is both a relaxant and a stimulant. It can help with depression but may also cause depression. It can make you calm and it can make you more anxious. It is thought to be the type of drug that opens up the brain to develop other addictions and is therefore called a gateway drug.

Boring it is not. Dangerous it is.

So, on the heels of World No Tobacco Day, the main point of this blog is not to disparage the tobacco plant but rather the misuse of tobacco, outside of its sacred, traditional use.

When misused, tobacco is a killer. Smoke it, chew it, snuff it and it will addict you! It will lead to cancer and it will kill you. It will kill you through many different cancers, such as lung cancer, but also through heart disease and lung disease.

Make no mistake: the misuse of tobacco products in a modern context such as cigarette smoking or chewing is a great evil that may kill 1 billion people on this planet in this century according to the World Health Organization.

The language in this blog is a little strong, but I feel this strongly about it.

It is my wish that not another lung choke, nor another heart fail, nor another living thing die from this addiction. And my wish for you, the smoker and tobacco user, is to know that it can be overcome. There is more support than ever! You can access free counselling by text, phone or email as well as information to help you quit at

If you are a smoker, encourage your children to never start using tobacco.

It is hard, yes. But you can do it! All British Columbians can access free nicotine patches or nicotine gum through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

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.