Healthy Living in the North

January 20-26 is National Non-Smoking Week!

No smoking emojis

Did you know most tobacco users want to quit? Or that smoking tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death? Yikes! This week, let’s work on helping to prevent young people from starting to smoke or chew tobacco and helping the tobacco users in your life quit so we can protect everyone from the harms of second- and third-hand smoke.

There are free provincial resources to help people quit – they can quit for a day and work towards a long term quit plan! Interested? Here’s three quitting resources you should check out now.

Three resources to quit smoking today:

  • QuitNow: get free counselling and support by visiting QuitNow or calling 1 877-455-2233. They even text! Text QUITNOW to 654321.
  • Free quitting products through the BC Smoking Cessation Program: all British Columbians can access FREE Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program to help reduce cravings while trying to quit. Talk to your pharmacist. You may be eligible for help to buy smoking cessation medications such as Varenicline (Champix) or Bupropion (Zyban).
  • Make a plan and find a friend: if you smoke, plan to quit; if you don’t smoke, help a tobacco user quit! 

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.

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It’s over: Baseball is breaking up with smokeless tobacco

I remember as a child looking at the bulging cheeks of a baseball player during the World Series. The player was spitting just before he wound up waiting for the pitch. It seemed strange to me that an adult would be allowed to spit this brown liquid in public.

In the past, the use of smokeless or chewing tobacco had been an acceptable activity during baseball games and influenced baseball fans to also use these products.

Everyone knows that smoking is harmful to your health but chewing tobacco is also very harmful. Now professional baseball is helping to prevent the suffering and death from these products.

New York started the ball rolling two years ago when they banned the use of smokeless tobacco at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees and the Houston Astros took the field April 2016 and were the first players to be prohibited by law from using smokeless tobacco for a regular-season game.

It’s amazing to me how quickly Major League Baseball (MLB) has moved forward; now smokeless tobacco is banned in half of major-league stadiums! The MLB has also banned the use of smokeless tobacco for all new major league players.

Players are partnering with the charitable organization “Stand Up to Cancer” by taking a moment of silence to remember their colleagues who have been lost, holding up placards bearing the name of a person battling cancer. They can use their “star power” to fight back against cancer and Big Tobacco.

I love watching baseball and I’m going to a Blue Jay’s game in Toronto this fall. I hope I don’t see any players or fans chewing and spitting. Roger’s stadium is still one of the MLB venues that has not addressed this issue.

Read about the harms of smokeless tobacco at Leave the Pack Behind. To get help quitting tobacco, visit QuitNow.

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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Happy anniversary: two years since Prince George smoke and vape bylaw

The City of Prince George promotes a healthy environment for all to enjoy. Two years ago on May 1, 2016 the city council adopted a bylaw to regulate smoking and vaping in outdoor areas and joined 68 other municipalities in BC who have a bylaw limiting where you can use tobacco in outdoor spaces. Smoking or vaping is prohibited within 25 metres of any outdoor sport facility or playground or other places where the public gather.

The bylaw restricts the smoking of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah pipes, or other lighted smoking equipment that burns tobacco or other weed or substance. This means that the smoking of cannabis will also be restricted.

Mr. PG sign no smoking.

On May 1, 2016 the Prince George city council adopted a bylaw to regulate smoking and vaping in outdoor areas.

Exposure to second hand smoke from burning tobacco products and other substances causes disease and premature death among non-smokers and this step has reduced the harmful effects of tobacco smoke for the people of Prince George. Exposure to vapour has been linked to some health risks although vaping is considered to be safer than smoking tobacco products. Children are particularly vulnerable to second hand smoke and vapour as they breathe faster and are exposed to even more smoke and vapour.

The bylaw also helps reduce the amount of litter from butts and discarded cigarette packaging. The filters do not biodegrade and litter the ground until swept up. As we enter a potentially hot, dry summer, this bylaw can also reduce the risk of fire from discarded matches and tobacco products.

Supportive smoke free environments help people who have quit using tobacco stay quit and also encourage tobacco users to quit. If your city or town does not have a bylaw to protect everyone from second hand smoke and vape, perhaps you would consider working with your local government to create one.

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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Nine reasons to quit smoking today

I had been smoking for 58 years. When I decided that enough was enough I was smoking over two packages a day. I had tried everything over the years to quit, but nothing seemed to work for me. This time I was determined that I was quitting no matter what. I started using the 14mg patch, weaned down to 7mg, which I kept on for a while. And no, I wasn’t forced to quit smoking if that what some of you may be thinking. I quit because I was sick and tired of allowing cigs to take over my life, and throwing $124.00 a week to the wind, and living on a pension, meant a lot of times doing without something just to please my addiction. Today I don’t have to say no to my friends when they invite me to join them for lunch, because now I have money to be able to do that and a whole lot more. And for anyone reading my story, read it a few times, because if I can do it after 58 years, I know anyone can.”

-Diane from Prince George, BC

It’s not easy

As Diane shares on QuitNow, tobacco users often think about quitting but struggle to find a solution that works for them. Elder Leonard also faced challenges before quitting. He shares on QuitNow:

Are you wishing that you never started? Do you hope that your kids never start? You are probably planning to quit someday. Why not make it today? Have a look at these nine reasons to quit and feel free to add your own.

Nine reasons to quit smoking

  1. My health will improve within eight hours of my last cigarette.
  2. I can stop worrying about how smoking is hurting my health. I will lower my chances of getting cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and other disabling diseases. I will also look younger.
  3. Winter is coming. I won’t have to go outside in nasty weather to smoke or buy cigarettes etc.
  4. I will save money! I will have more money for Christmas and other fun stuff.
  5. My clothes, house, or car won’t smell like smoke.
  6. I won’t have to live with the constant cravings to smoke or chew once I have quit.
  7. I will feel more in control of my life. Smoking isn’t cool anymore.
  8. I will no longer expose my friends and family to the harmful effects of second hand smoke.
  9. I will help prevent my kids from getting addicted to tobacco.

Free supports are available

The Provincial Smoking Cessation Program helps eligible BC residents who wish to stop smoking, or using other tobacco products quit, by covering the cost of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, and helps with the cost of specific smoking cessation prescription drugs. Visit your local pharmacy to pick up your first month of patches, gum, inhalers, or lozenges. There are twelve weeks left in 2017 and you can access another twelve weeks of NRT in January of 2018.

Learn more

You can also access counselling by phone, email or text. Visit QuitNow or call 1-877-455-2233 for support from QuitNow services.


Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional tobacco use 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.

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World No Tobacco Day: Tobacco – a threat to development

WHO graphic

This year, for World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization has chosen the theme: “Tobacco – A Threat to Development.”

I grew up in southern Ontario near the “tobacco belt” of Norfolk and Elgin counties. I remember the green buildings with red roofs throughout the area: the kilns where tobacco was hung to dry. Many prosperous farms existed in this sandy- and silt-loam soil.

In recent years, the production of tobacco in this area has decreased thanks to the decline of tobacco use* in Canada and the pressure on farmers to stop producing. Farmers are now growing products such as lavender, peanuts, and ginseng and some have started wineries, poultry farms, and apiaries.

What does tobacco production look like on the global stage?

This year, for World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization has chosen the theme: “Tobacco – A Threat to Development.” How is tobacco a threat to development?

Worldwide, the production of tobacco requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizer that can pollute water supplies. Like in my home counties, the land used for tobacco could grow food instead of tobacco, a product that kills half of those who use it. Without protective clothing that many of us take for granted, workers are exposed to nicotine and harmful pesticides labouring in tobacco fields. In many countries, these labourers are children.

Locally, regionally, and nationally, we need to develop strategies to prioritize tobacco control and reduction. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in both Canada and worldwide and kills half of the people who use it.

Tobacco reduction works in communities to prevent the initiation of smoking among young people, protects the public from second-hand smoke in community settings, and increases tobacco cessation and tobacco reduction efforts within primary care settings, while recognizing and valuing traditional tobacco use through cultural and ceremonial use.

World No Tobacco Day reminds us that we can work together to prevent children from starting to use tobacco, protect everyone from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke in both indoor and outdoor spaces, and encourage tobacco users to stop using these products.

Do you know someone who smokes? Encourage them to check out QuitNow.ca and access free nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.


*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.

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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What are your reasons to quit?

Do you smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco? Everyone knows that smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco is bad for your health. Are you wishing that you never started? Do you hope that your kids never start?

You are probably planning to quit someday. Why not make it today!

Do you like top 10 lists? Write your own reasons to quit or, if you need to be inspired, here are 10 reasons to quit smoking now:

  1. My health will improve within eight hours of my last cigarette.
  2. I can stop worrying about how smoking is hurting my health. I will lower my chances of getting cancer, heart disease, lung disease and other disabling diseases. I will also look younger.
  3. It’s cold outside. I won’t have to go outside in nasty weather to smoke or buy cigarettes.
  4. I will save money!
  5. My clothes, house and car won’t smell like smoke.
  6. I won’t have to live with the constant cravings to smoke or chew once I have quit.
  7. I will feel more in control of my life.

    There are many resources available for you to quit smoking today!

  8. Smoking isn’t cool anymore.
  9. I will no longer expose my friends and family to the harmful effects of second hand smoke.
  10. I will help prevent my kids from getting addicted to cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Want more information about quitting smoking?

Visit quitnow.ca or call HealthLink 8-1-1 for free self-directed programs and many helpful tools and resources. Get free counselling by phone, text or email.

You can access free nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program by visiting your pharmacist. You may be eligible for prescription smoking cessation drugs at reduced cost.

Quitting smoking or chewing tobacco is the best thing you can do for your health.

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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It’s always a good choice to stop smoking, no matter how old you are

Are you a senior who smokes? Do you know or love a senior who smokes?

grandfather walking with grandchild

Quitting helps reduce your family’s exposure to second hand smoke

Smoking is hard to give up at any age, but it can seem even more challenging for those who have smoked for decades. Seniors may think that there is no point in quitting since they have smoked for so long that it won’t make any difference. They may also believe that if they haven’t had any negative health effects yet, they never will. Many seniors grew up in an era when there was no research to support the ill effects of smoking. That has changed!

The fact is smoking is directly responsible for the majority of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases. Smoking also plays a huge role in lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and lower respiratory tract infections.

There are additional health and financial issues for seniors who smoke:

  • Bone fractures occur in more seniors who smoke than those who do not.
  • Women who smoke may have an overall reduced bone density after menopause. This can lead to developing osteoporosis or l bone breaks and fractures.
  • Smoking in old age has been linked to macular degeneration, diabetes, colorectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many other health disorders.
  • Quitting smoking will save money. Seniors will also save on home and life insurance, as well as health plans.

There is help available and the benefits of quitting smoking are dramatic and immediate for seniors, too!
Contact your pharmacist for 12 weeks of free smoking cessation products. You can obtain patches, gum, lozenges and inhalers.

For more information visit quitnow.ca

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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!

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True-life quit stories – northerners going tobacco-free!

Quitting smoking is hard, what’s your story?

The “Quit Story contest” deadline is this Friday (June 10th) and so far the submissions have been heartfelt and inspiring.

Before sharing these stories, I should note that your quit story can also involve your experience with the quit attempts of people in your life – we’ve all been touched by tobacco use through our family, friends and work. Many thanks to all who have entered the contest and shared their stories – perhaps these words can help support your decision, or that of someone in your life. You can share your story and enter the contest to win a Fitbit activity tracker until Friday – so keep those quit stories coming!

In Prince George, Carolyn is newly tobacco-free:

“I’ve been a non-smoker for about 3 weeks now, after 20 years of smoking. I feel much better. I can keep up with my sons better, and I’m not coughing and wheezing when we go for walks. It’s been tough, but I’m excited to think that I’ll likely be around for their weddings someday!”

Sandy, from Terrace, talks about how tough quitting can be:smoke-69124_960_720cropped

“I started smoking when I was 16 and quit when I was 40, wow, that’s a lot of years. I sort of tried to quit everytime a new “program” came out; gum, patches, pills, etc. There was something about smoking that I liked though, not just the buzz it gave me but the time away from the kids, household chores, work, life. It was a time for me to zone out for a few minutes or to socialize with other smokers in the back parking lot. I tried to be a courteous smoker, always outside, away from doors and windows and I would justify my addiction by saying it’s really the only bad habit I had. I had lost family members to lung cancer but always thought well, if that’s what’s gonna get me then so be it.

Call it an epiphany, or a light bulb moment, whatever… I sitting on my front step, taking a mom’s time out when I realized that I didn’t want to do it anymore, I didn’t want to leave the kids in the house and hide out so I could have a smoke. That was it, I went to doctor, had a little cry, told him I wanted to try the new drug to quit, didn’t hurt that I was also feeling depressed and needed the anti-depressant part too. I took the drug for 2 months then stopped because of the side effects. I told myself over and over again that I didn’t want to go through all that again, I didn’t want to hide, or disappoint or make excuses for my behaviour. I had two very smart children watching me as well, making sure I didn’t slip. I tested myself once, after about 4 months, stupid thing to do and I don’t recommend it! I took a drag off my friend’s cigarette and was so dizzy and queasy that I couldn’t take another drag, if I did, I would have been right back at it again. I never tested myself again. I always thought I would like to be one of those smokers that only smokes when they have a few drinks, but then I would be an alcoholic.

I loved smoking, I loved the smell, the jolt when the smoke hits the back of your throat, the socializing and even the zoning out. Would I go back? Not on your life. That’s how I stay smoke free, I admit to what I miss and accept it and move on. I can honestly say that I will never smoke again. I said that in 2010 and I am still saying it in 2016, never again.”

I’ll share more stories before the end of the week – I’m excited to read all that come in. Sometimes these aren’t easy stories to tell, thank you for your words.

The contest runs until Friday, the 10th, so enter today! You can win a Fitbit activity tracker to keep you on your toes!

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!

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

QuitNow.ca 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 QuitNow.ca 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.

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