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.


Tobacco-free games

Sign that reads: "Smoke free outdoor space" posted at an 2015 Games Official Venue

Through a partnership with the City of Prince George, the 2015 Canada Winter Games, and Northern Health, the Games have been proclaimed to be tobacco-free! Look for these signs at 2015 Official Games Venues and look for smoke-free bylaw work to continue in your municipality as a legacy of the Canada Winter Games!

If you’ve been cheering on Team B.C. (or another province – but I’m biased!) in-person at the 2015 Canada Winter Games, you may have noticed something as you approached venues across the region: signs welcoming you to a smoke-free space! In January, the Games were declared to be smoke-free and now, signs informing visitors of this smoke-free policy are up across the region.

When Games volunteers picked up their information packages, they received a great overview of the policy and why it was implemented. If you want to promote tobacco-free sports in your community, this information provides a great template to use! Here’s the full information card that volunteers received from Northern Health and the 2015 Canada Winter Games:

The 2015 Canada Winter Games and Northern Health Authority are proud to support a tobacco-free 2015 Canada Winter Games.

The Tobacco-Free 2015 Games policy has been created to protect everyone who is attending the 2015 Canada Winter Games from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke at 2015 Games Official Venues.

The use of tobacco – including smoking – is prohibited at all indoor and outdoor 2015 Games Official Venues and in all public places within three metres of entry-ways.

Please note: The policy applies to any smoke-producing or vapour-producing activities. This means that no smoking of any kind is permitted, including the burning or vaporizing of tobacco or other substances. The policy also applies to vapour-producing devices such as e-cigarettes, vapes or vaporizers.

The handout that was created for volunteers also including an FAQ. The questions are helpful for anyone attending the Canada Winter Games as well as anyone looking to champion smoke-free bylaws or proclamations where they live!

Where can people smoke?

People who wish to smoke must leave 2015 Games Official Venues and grounds to do so. Beyond these Official Venues, provincial standards of no smoking within three metres of any entry or exit apply.

E-cigarettes don’t produce real smoke. Why are they included?

While e-cigarettes do not produce smoke, they do produce a vapour that is inhaled by people using them and by those around them. The vapour contains a variety of chemical components depending on the particular products being used. The safety and long-term effects of inhaling e-cigarette vapour has not been established.

Why are there no designated smoking areas at the 2015 Games?

The 2015 Canada Winter Games supports young athletes, good health and healthy practices. Smoking is one of the most health-damaging things a person can do. Supporting smoking in any way, including providing designated smoking areas, is inconsistent with the spirit of the Canada Games and the commitment to healthy practices.

I am working at the 2015 Games. What do I do if I see someone smoking at the venues?

Calmly and politely approach them and say: “I’m sorry, but smoking is not permitted at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.”

Are you concerned about your health because you use tobacco?

Access information and free nicotine patches or nicotine gum by visiting or call HealthLinkBC 8-1-1.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)