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.


NH smoke-free grounds policy: Let’s do it right too!

At the end of 2012, Vancouver Coastal Health authority launched their fantastic new video to promote their tobacco reduction messages, using the music of Tom Lavin.

When I saw the video for the first time, I thought, we need a video like this for Northern Health! The music is great and everyone is involved.

Watch the Vancouver Coastal Health video:

Northern Health’s smoke-free grounds policy was developed to protect everyone from the harmful effects of second hand smoke. There is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke and even the odour of smoke on clothing (third hand smoke) is harmful. It’s important for staff, physicians, patients and visitors to ensure that our facilities provide a safe environment for health and healing without tobacco smoke and the lingering toxic odour of smoke.

So what is it like for patients who normally smoke? The average smoker will start having cravings to smoke within 30-60 minutes of admission. They may develop a headache, restlessness, irritability, inability to concentrate and other discomforts of withdrawal.

When our patients who smoke are admitted to our facilities, it’s important to minimize the discomfort of their withdrawal symptoms. The Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol should be implemented on admission; patients are offered Nicotine Replacement Therapy products (NRT), such as patches, gum and/or inhalers to decrease their withdrawal symptoms. If cravings persist, the dose can be increased or the patch can be combined with the gum or inhaler. It’s like pain control and withdrawal should be treated like pain!

Patients who experience comfort without the constant need to smoke may even decide to quit, but for now they will feel better and heal faster. Being in an environment where no one is smoking also reduces the desire to smoke!

Tobacco kills half of all its users and many of the patients in our facilities are there because of tobacco-related illnesses. Let’s all work together to escape the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco smoke.

What can staff do?

  • Ask all patients about tobacco and treatment for withdrawal – make it a standard of care.
  • Use the 5A’s approach: Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist and Arrange.
  • If you smoke, do not smoke on the hospital grounds. Remind your co-workers to smoke off NH property.
  • Ask yourself: Do my clothes smell like smoke? If they do, consider changing after breaks.
  • Consider using NRT or cessation medications while at work.
  • Think about quitting – you can do it!

What can patients do?

  • Ask for the nicotine patch, gum and or inhaler to help you feel more comfortable.
  • Refrain from smoking on the hospital grounds.
  • Think about quitting.
  • Phone Healthlink BC at 8-1-1 for free patches or gum.
  • Visit

If you like videos, Dr. Mike Evans from Toronto has a good one that might help you quit: “What is the single most important thing you can do to quit smoking?”

Enjoy and live tobacco free!

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.