Healthy Living in the North

Vaping: Not as harmless as you might think

A drawing of a youth vaping, with smoke around his head, says, "Vaping exposes you to harmful chemicals."

In 2018, 21% of all BC students reported that they vaped with nicotine.

This article is based on a presentation by Northern Health’s staff members: Lindsay Willoner, Regional Nursing Lead, Tobacco Reduction; Petrina Bryant, Regional Nursing Lead Healthy Schools and Youth; and Stacie Weich, Team Lead – Interprofessional Team 7. It originally appeared in Northern Health – Health and Wellness in the North, Summer 2019.

It’s true that with vaping, you’re not breathing in tar and other components of smoke the way you would with a cigarette, but research shows it’s still risky for your health: you’re inhaling particulate matter, nicotine, heavy metals such as lead, and other cancer-causing toxic chemicals.

“There’s metals found in vaping that are being inhaled into people’s lungs, and there’s nicotine, which puts people at risk of addiction,” says Lindsay Willoner, Northern Health’s Regional Nursing Lead, Tobacco Reduction. “Vaping has only been on the market in Canada for about a decade, so we don’t know the long-term effects on public health.”

What is vaping?

Lighting a traditional cigarette makes tobacco burn, releasing smoke that contains nicotine. The smoker breathes it in, delivering nicotine to their lungs.

With vaping, there’s no burning. Instead, the vaping device heats a liquid and converts it to a vapor that the user inhales. This vapour is often flavoured and can contain nicotine.

“Because it looks like it’s smokeless and might not give off any odour, people may think there’s really no harm with it,” says Willoner. “But really, the e-juice or vape may have addictive substances in it, so it doesn’t come without harm.”

Vaping can harm your health

Short-term effects of vaping include coughing, sneezing, increased heart rate, and worsening of asthma symptoms.

Long-term effects can include lung disease, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Also, children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing the e-juice or absorbing it through their skin.

There’s also “popcorn lung,” caused by the buttery flavouring found in some vaping products — it can cause bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious and irreversible lung disease.

Vaping is illegal for those under 19

With vaping on the rise among youth, there’s the risk of a new generation becoming addicted to nicotine. Cannabis can also be vaped with an undetectable smell.

Tobacco smoking rates continue to drop, with 6% of students reporting they were daily smokers in 2018 vs. 10% in 2008.

But in 2018, 21% of all BC students reported vaping with nicotine, and 19% without nicotine. However, as of 2018, vaping is illegal for those under the age of 19.

How to quit

The best thing you can do for your health is to quit vaping. For help, visit quitnow.ca or call 1-877-455-2233:

  • Get information and free nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.
  • You can get these products through your pharmacy.

You might be able to get financial help to buy smoking cessation medications.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Smoking or chewing tobacco: have you had the talk?

Whether you use tobacco or not, you probably don’t want your kids to start smoking or chewing tobacco. Let your kids know how you feel about tobacco and make an emotional appeal to help them avoid becoming addicted.

If young people can make it to their nineteenth birthday without becoming tobacco users, then chances are they will never be one. However, youth can face pressure to use tobacco from a variety of sources as they grow into adulthood.

We all know that peer pressure is a significant source of that pressure, but what about other sources?  

Parents and other role models can counter these influences. Don’t assume that kids have the skills to resist peer pressure. You can help kids develop refusal skills to avoid tobacco and the addiction that can develop after one or two cigarettes. 

January 20-26 is National Non-Smoking Week. Let’s work together to influence our youth to live a healthy life.

For more information, visit:


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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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 is World No Tobacco Day?

WHO infographic

World No Tobacco Day is an opportunity to talk globally, nationally, provincially, and within our own communities about reducing commercial tobacco use.

What is World No Tobacco Day? It’s an opportunity to talk globally, nationally, provincially, and within our own communities about reducing commercial tobacco use*. The World Health Organization (WHO) states commercial tobacco use kills about 7 million people every year and this number is expected to grow to 8 million a year by 2030 without increased action.

We see the harms of tobacco use in our health care facilities, schools, and communities on a daily basis. Tobacco use contributes to worsening health such as respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease; meanwhile, health care costs continue to increase as we treat people for tobacco related illnesses.

We can act now to stop this trend. Northern Health has a smoke-free grounds clinical practice standard that promotes the health of our patients, staff, families, and friends. This standard prohibits smoking and vaping in our facilities and on our grounds. Many of our communities now have bylaws that also prohibit smoking and vaping in outdoor spaces. These laws directly impact the health of our communities in a positive way!

But, we need your help. We need you to help us provide information and support to people who may be using commercial tobacco or who vape in our smoke-free spaces. Most people who use commercial tobacco want to quit. There is help available at QuitNow.ca and free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) available at any pharmacy in B.C. Speak to a pharmacist for details. With support and resources, we can help make quitting become a reality for those who wish to quit.

Here are some tips for supporting tobacco users in smoke-free spaces to quit:

  • Inform the person or people using tobacco in a smoke-free area that they are doing so in an area where this is not allowed. Many of these bylaws are still pretty new!
  • Ask the person if he or she would like to quit using commercial tobacco.
  • Provide them with the QuitNow.ca website for free resources and support.

Thank you for doing your part to make commercial tobacco use a part of history!


*In this post and in most public health messaging, “tobacco” is short for commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Using these is highly addictive and a leading cause of disease and premature death. However, Northern Health recognizes that natural tobacco has been an integral part of many Indigenous cultures in B.C. for thousands of years. Traditional uses of tobacco in ritual, ceremony, and prayer is entirely different from smoking or chewing commercial tobacco. Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional uses can outweigh the potential harms.

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The end game: What are your bold new ideas to reduce the harmful and costly effects of tobacco use?

Mascot with smoke-free spaces sign

The 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George were smoke-free! What are your bold ideas to contribute to tobacco-free communities?

You probably have a friend or family member who has experienced one or more of the debilitating diseases caused by smoking or chewing tobacco.

Tobacco use* remains the leading cause of premature death in Canada and kills over 37,000 Canadians every year. Tobacco kills half the people who use it and is also harmful to the people breathing second-hand smoke.

Although there has been a significant reduction in tobacco use over the last several decades, 15 per cent of Canadians still smoke. In our northern communities, the rate is over 20 per cent. Even though everyone knows that smoking or chewing tobacco hurts our bodies, over 100,000 Canadians start smoking daily every year. Most of these are youth.

We need a bold, new approach to reduce the use of this deadly product!

In partnership with all Canadians, the Government of Canada has set a goal to reduce the rate of tobacco use to five per cent by 2035. You can help make this happen! Is there something that you can do in your community to help youth stay tobacco-free or to help current tobacco users reduce or quit? Let the government know!

The Federal Tobacco Control Strategy ends March 2018. The Government of Canada is seeking input from interested Canadians to plan a new approach to radically reduce the use of tobacco in our country. Provide your feedback on the future of tobacco control in Canada. You can provide feedback by email or mail. Feedback must be received by April 13, 2017.

Contribute to helping Canadians to lead healthier, tobacco-free lives! Take part in the consultations on the future of tobacco control in Canada.


*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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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 the Communications Lead for Capital Projects at Northern Health. She’s happy in all four seasons in Northern BC and loves getting out into the wild with her family. Andrea is a Southern transplant who came to the North “for just one year” to attend UNBC… more than twenty years ago. Suffice it to say the academic and professional opportunities, wild spaces, and open-hearted people are what make the North home for Andrea. Sunny winter skies and fresh powder for days don’t hurt either.

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The challenge of quitting smoking during pregnancy and staying quit after delivery

Woman smoking beside a field.

Avoiding tobacco use will improve the health of your whole family before, during and after pregnancy.

Want to improve your own health and protect your developing baby from the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco smoke? Women and their partners who use tobacco during pregnancy are encouraged to quit!

Why quit?

Maternal smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and early detachment of the placenta. Smoking is also linked to growth restriction during pregnancy and low birth weight. Although a smaller baby may mean an easier labour and delivery, low birth weight is a predictor of decreased newborn health and survival.

After a child is born, infants of women who smoke are three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have an increased risk of respiratory problems and increased severity of asthma.

When to quit?

Ideally, women and their partners should quit using tobacco prior to pregnancy but if not, then it is important to quit anytime during pregnancy. Every day is a good day to quit smoking!

Support to help you quit smoking and protect your family

Although tobacco dependence is a complex addiction with many factors that make it difficult to quit, many women have been able to quit during their pregnancy.

Women are aware that smoking is not good for their health or the health of their babies and so many are very motivated to quit. It’s sometimes difficult to quit during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy speeds up a woman’s metabolism and she may find that she is smoking even more to relieve her cravings.
  • Pregnancy is sometimes a stressful time.
  • A woman’s social network may use tobacco and she may feel left out.

Understanding these factors may help in the development of plan to quit smoking.

Many women wonder if they can use nicotine replacement therapy such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge or inhalers when they are pregnant. Opinions vary on the use of these products in pregnancy so women should discuss the use of these products with their physician or pharmacist. Intermittent dosing of nicotine replacement therapies such as lozenges, gum or inhaler are preferred over continuous dosing of the patch.

It is likely that nicotine replacement therapy is safer than cigarette smoking as the mother and baby are only exposed to nicotine and none of the other 8,000+ chemicals in cigarette smoke. If you use nicotine replacement therapy instead of smoking cigarettes, the mother and baby are not exposed to the carbon monoxide that reduces oxygen uptake and flow to the developing baby.

Many women are able to quit during their pregnancy and enjoy the positive health effects that come with quitting. It’s important to plan how to stay quit once the baby is delivered as relapse is common after the baby is born.

For information and free support to help you quit, visit QuitNow, call 1-877-455-2233, or ask your pharmacist about the BC Smoking Cessation Program. Do you or a loved one have a quit story? Share it for your chance to win a Fitbit!

Let’s raise children in tobacco free families!


This article was first published in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine. Check out the full issue below!

 

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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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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