Healthy Living in the North

Changes in the air

This blog was co-written by Reg Wulff & Doreen Bond

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that things were a lot different when it came to where a person can smoke. I can remember when smoking was allowed anywhere and anytime. It wasn’t considered hazardous to light up cigarettes in cars with children, in the office, or at a restaurant. You could even smoke on Northern Health property back in the day.

Fort St. John hospital

Northern Health is rolling out a new and improved Smoke Free Grounds policy that will go into effect at all facilities soon!

However, things have changed and now we recognize that a smoke free environment reduces many health risks for smokers and bystanders. Northern Health took action to create a smoke free environment by implementing a Smoke Free Grounds policy back in 2008. After a few years and a few tweaks (such as e-cigarettes and other vapour devices being included in the policy), Northern Health is rolling out a new and improved Smoke Free Grounds policy that will go into effect soon!

While some people might disagree with the idea of asking smokers to move off Northern Health property if they choose to smoke, the policy is supported by valid reasons:

The Smoke Free Grounds policy …

It doesn’t matter whether you work for Northern Health, are a patient in-facility, or are visiting someone in the hospital. For the Smoke Free Grounds policy to be successful, everyone is going to have a role to play!

If you’re a staff member

  • Use Brief Intervention to identify tobacco users and address tobacco as a standard of care using the Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol and Registered Nurse Initiated Action.
  • Be a role model and adhere to the Smoke Free Grounds policy.
  • Use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products at work.
  • Let your patients know about the policy and support them in using nicotine replacement therapy products to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • If you see someone smoking on Northern Health property, tell them about the policy. If you’re unsure of how to approach someone and talk to them about smoking on Northern Health property, ask a tobacco reduction coordinator.

If you’re a patient

  • Respect and adhere to the policy.
  • Ask your nurse about getting nicotine replacement therapy products while you’re in-facility. You can get help to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
  • Look at this as a chance to go without tobacco. When you discover that your health improves by not using tobacco, it might lead to you considering quitting altogether. It’s also important to remember that by not using tobacco, you’ll heal quicker and get home faster!
  • If you do choose to use tobacco, remember that you need to leave Northern Health property to do so.

If you’re a visitor or contractor working on Northern Health property

  • Remember, the Smoke Free Grounds policy applied to everyone. Please respect and adhere to the policy.

At the end of the day, the Smoke Free Grounds policy is an important part of Northern Health’s efforts to create a healthy space for everyone.

What will you do to support the policy and ensure its success?


Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer 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 as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. 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.


Third-hand smoke, have you heard of it?

Woman lighting a cigarette

The health impacts of smoking and second-hand smoke are relatively well-known, but do you know about the dangers of third-hand smoke?

Third-hand smoke is the stale, smoky odour that lingers in the air that is left behind after a cigarette is extinguished. Electronic cigarettes and other vapourizing devices also leave behind chemicals for others to breathe.

It’s now common knowledge that smoking is harmful and breathing in second-hand smoke is equally harmful to the non-smoker. However, third-hand smoke could be harmful as well.

Like second-hand smoke, third-hand smoke is composed of toxic carcinogens like arsenic, lead, and cyanide as well as heavy metals. Although the visible cigarette smoke is gone, its particles can be deposited onto every surface of a home or vehicle. Sticky, highly toxic particulates can cling to clothes, furniture, flooring, ceilings, walls, hair, skin, toys and bedding. Gases can be absorbed into carpets, draperies, and other upholstery or even incorporated into the environment’s dust. These gases can still be inhaled long after a cigarette has been extinguished.

Third-hand smoke residue is a health hazard for children. Children breathe faster and can inhale more of the toxins. They also crawl on, play on, or are closer to the dusty, contaminated surfaces where the toxic chemicals lay in wait. This increases children’s exposure and puts them at greater risk from the harmful effects of third-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke is also resistant to normal cleaning. Simply airing out rooms, opening windows, using fans or air conditioners, or confining smoking to only certain areas of a home does not remove the residue left behind from third-hand smoke.

Making homes, vehicles and schools smoke-free is the best way to avoid third-hand smoke.

Avoid exposure to third-hand smoke with these tips:

  • Do not smoke tobacco around children.
  • Shower and wash your hands after smoking.
  • Keep all surfaces clean.
  • Identify your home as smoke-free and do not allow people to smoke in your house or car.
  • Consider wearing a jacket or shirt that can be removed after smoking, especially when holding a child.
  • If you are a tobacco user, quit! Visit QuitNow for resources to help you quit.
Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.


Are cigarette butts socially acceptable?

A cigarette butt lies in the snow.

Just one butt of the millions that affect our environment.

Society’s littering standards have come a long way from being commonplace. Today, throwing garbage on the street or out of a vehicle window is unacceptable and unlawful; however, despite these standards in litter control, one item in particular remains, what seems to be, socially acceptable: cigarette butts.

According to, there are 8000 tonnes of cigarette butts dropped by Canadians each year – the majority within 10 feet of an ashtray.  The next time you take a stroll down a busy street, try to notice the cigarette butts that are all over the ground. These “butts” impact more than the immediate environment: the runoff into rivers, lakes, and streams could ultimately impact drinking water sources and other water habitats as well. Cigarette butts contain toxins that can ultimately leach into the environment and have a detrimental impact on aquatic life.

In addition, consumption of these butts could lead to the death of other mammals by choking. Still, butts are everywhere.

Generally, cigarette butts are composed of plastic (cellulose acetate to be specific). Other forms of plastic tend to biodegrade, but cigarette butts do not or the process of breaking down is extremely slow and can persist in the environment for a long duration.

It takes 10 years for the filter on each of the 52 billion cigarettes smoked annually by five million Canadians to biodegrade, contributing almost 5000 tonnes of pollutants into the atmosphere.  Imagine, 5000 plastic bottles cluttering a busy city street. Of course, that wouldn’t be acceptable by our littering standards, so what makes plastic, toxic cigarette butts acceptable? Now, it’s time we work together to do something about it.

Azreer Gill

About Azreer Gill

Azreer is an Environmental Health Officer at the Terrace Health Unit. He has been residing in the Northwest for over 20 years and loves his local community. Over the course of the four seasons, he enjoys mountain running, paintballing with friends, and firing off rounds at the shooting range in town. Azreer also plans on heading to Europe again in 2014.