Healthy Living in the North

Get ready for plain packaging in Canada

Two cigarette boxes in the new plain packaging.

Plain packaging comes into effect in Canada on November 9, 2019. (Photo credit: Canadian Cancer Society)

Here’s a fact you might already know: Commercial tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Canada and has negative health effects for all ages.

Here’s a fact you might not know: Across Canada, tobacco product packages will be stripped of all bright colours and logos, and will now be a plain brown default colour.

Plain packaging starts November 9 in Canada

Health Canada regulations for plain packaging take effect on November 9, 2019. At the manufacturer’s level, retailers will have a 90-day grace window to sell off their remaining coloured inventory. As of February 7, 2020, we will no longer see colour or design that have long been used to lure new users and create brand loyalty in the tobacco world.

What it will look like

All tobacco packaging will feature the same brown base colour, basic grey text, and minimalist layout under the new requirements. The size and appearance of cigarettes, cigars, and other products inside the packages will also be standardized.

This regulation is limiting the tobacco industry’s ability to advertise and market their products through attractive packaging. Research has shown that plain and standardized tobacco packaging reduces the appeal of tobacco products, particularly among youth. For example: the colour green in the tobacco world has traditionally been linked to menthol products, or so-called “slim” products, for female consumers. Slims and superslims, which critics say falsely promotes a less harmful tobacco product, will be banned by February 7, 2020, at the retailer level.

Packaging boxes will change too

In November 2021, the use of a cigarette box format known as “slide and shell” will be mandatory, though there will be a transition period for implementation. This is to enhance the size and impact of health warnings printed on the packaging. Further timelines are set for cigars and other tobacco products.

Plain packaging around the world

These requirements follow the lead of countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, which have their own packaging rules and were at the forefront of tobacco packaging change. There has been resistance to plain packaging from tobacco companies, who suggest that plain packaging doesn’t work and that it may boost the illicit sale of tobacco products. At least 16 other countries have adopted similar measures and Canada will have one of the best tobacco plain packaging regulations in the world, setting multiple world precedents.

There are 29 countries and territories moving forward with plain packaging, with 16 having adopted or working on the measure.

For more information on plain packaging

Visit Health Canada: Plain and Standardized Appearance for Tobacco Packaging and Products.

Interested in quitting?

There are many reasons why one should quit smoking. It is always a good time to quit. Quitting smoking can be difficult. Replacing cigarettes with other tobacco products can still negatively affect your health. If you or someone you know is interested in quitting or decreasing their tobacco use, encourage them to talk to their primary care provider (such as a doctor or nurse practitioner).

The following tobacco cessation resources are also available:

  • QuitNow offers free information, support, and counseling by trained professionals by phone, text, or email.
  • BC Smoking Cessation Program: Everyone in BC can access 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch, inhaler and lozenges) per calendar year through their local pharmacy. Women who are pregnant or lactating are advised to consult with their doctor or pharmacist.
  • First Nations Health Authority benefits program offers supplementary coverage for nicotine replacement therapy.

Note: In this post, 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.

Lindsay Willoner

About Lindsay Willoner

Originally from Ontario, Lindsay started her nursing career with Northern Health in 2006 as a public health nurse. Since then, Lindsay has branched out in a variety of leadership roles both within and outside NH, including as a public health resource nurse, working with Options for Sexual Health, community influenza contracts, BCNU stewardship, and working at the local long-term care facility. Lindsay currently works as Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction based out of the Terrace Health Unit.

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Free nicotine replacement therapy: double the chances, double the odds to success!

A paper entitled tobacco reduction plan held by magnets to a fridge.

Having the right tools, supports and coping mechanisms in place can help improve your overall chances of living tobacco-free.

Do you smoke or chew commercial tobacco products?

How does six months of free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), including patches, gum, inhalers, or lozenges, sound? Here is your chance, before the year ends, to access your 2019 stock of NRT and combine it with next year’s supply for optimal success.

Nicotine cravings: not all the same

When you crave tobacco, what you’re really craving is nicotine, an addictive chemical found in commercial tobacco products. NRT provides your body with clean nicotine that fulfils those cravings, without the exposure to hazardous chemicals found in commercial tobacco products.

Having the right tools, supports, and coping mechanisms in place can help improve your overall chances of living tobacco-free.

Six ways you can improve your chances of living tobacco-free:

  1. Have a plan in place. Remember: this is a lifestyle change! Plan for triggers and risky situations to help make sure you stay tobacco-free.
  2. Detox tobacco. Get rid of your tobacco product as well as ashtrays both in the house and vehicle.
  3. Have open dialogue with friends, family and coworkers. This can keep you on track.
  4. Know your cues. If you need to hold something in the absence of a cigarette, substitute it with a stick of celery, carrot, or pen.
  5. Get counselling. Evidence shows that having a counselor or peer support group is effective when it comes to quitting.
  6. Use tobacco cessation services in combination with nicotine replacement therapy and medication. This combo makes you three to four times more likely to quit.

If you want to quit or decrease your tobacco use, talk to your primary care provider (such as a doctor or nurse practitioner).

You can also access the following tobacco cessation resources below:

  • QuitNow offers free information, support, and counseling by trained professionals by phone, text, or email.
  • BC Smoking Cessation Program: Everyone in BC can access 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch, inhaler and lozenges) per calendar year through their local pharmacy. Women who are pregnant or lactating are advised to consult with their doctor or pharmacist.
  • First Nations Health Authority benefits program offers supplementary coverage for nicotine replacement therapy.
Lindsay Willoner

About Lindsay Willoner

Originally from Ontario, Lindsay started her nursing career with Northern Health in 2006 as a public health nurse. Since then, Lindsay has branched out in a variety of leadership roles both within and outside NH, including as a public health resource nurse, working with Options for Sexual Health, community influenza contracts, BCNU stewardship, and working at the local long-term care facility. Lindsay currently works as Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction based out of the Terrace Health Unit.

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Happy World No Tobacco Day 2019!

World No Tobacco Day graphicI’ve been a registered nurse with Northern Health (NH) for over 13 years. During that time, I’ve had the privilege to care for the health and well-being of people living in this region and our diverse communities. Unfortunately I’ve seen first-hand, the long-term effects that commercial tobacco use has on people in the North.

Tobacco disease affects families

Growing up, I witnessed the complications tobacco use had on my childhood friend’s father; he passed away from lung cancer when we were only 12 years old. Tobacco disease affects the whole family. I know my friend wishes her father was there to watch her graduate, walk her down the aisle, and meet her three children.

Reducing tobacco use

In my role as the Regional Lead for Tobacco Reduction for NH, I try to understand a person’s experience, and I work to reduce disease within our communities through awareness and prevention. This year, the goal of 2019 World No Tobacco Day is to limit the intake of tobacco products and second-hand smoke for ideal lung health.

Do you know these facts about tobacco use?

  • Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in Canada.
  • Tobacco use kills almost 7,000 British Columbians each year. Over 100 of these British Columbians are non-smokers.
  • Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk for lung damage.

How to keep your family’s lungs in peak condition:

  • The best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. If, at first, you don’t succeed, keep trying. You’re not alone, there’s help: Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit ca for free help.
  • Avoid letting anyone smoke in your house. If you smoke, wear a “smoking shirt,” and remove it before coming back inside.
  • Never smoke in the car, especially when a child is the passenger.

The BC Provincial Smoking Cessation Program includes information for eligible BC residents who wish to stop smoking or using tobacco products. To access your free Nicotine Replacement Therapy, go to the BC Smoking Cessation Program or speak to your local pharmacist.

Other helpful resources:

Note: 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.

Lindsay Willoner

About Lindsay Willoner

Originally from Ontario, Lindsay started her nursing career with Northern Health in 2006 as a public health nurse. Since then, Lindsay has branched out in a variety of leadership roles both within and outside NH, including as a public health resource nurse, working with Options for Sexual Health, community influenza contracts, BCNU stewardship, and working at the local long-term care facility. Lindsay currently works as Regional Nursing Lead for Tobacco Reduction based out of the Terrace Health Unit.

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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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