World No Tobacco Day Today
Prince George, B.C.- Today is World No Tobacco Day, and while progress is being made in Northern B.C., there is still a long way to go.
BC has the lowest rate of smoking in the nation, but it is still a serious issue in the Northern Health region “One in four people in Northern B.C. smoke” says Nancy Viney, Northern Health’s Tobacco Reduction Lead, “of that number, almost one half of current smokers have tried to quit in the past year.” She says smoking rates in the north are most likely higher because more people work outdoors, where smoking may not be banned. She says those who work indoors are more likely to quit because they are unable to light up while at work.
Viney says the use of tobacco is one of the largest public health threats in the world, killing 6 million people per year. In British Columbia, each year, about 6,000 people will die from a tobacco related illness.
Six out of ten smokers in Canada have already quit smoking “So it’s very doable” says Viney who admits quitting is no easy feat ” It’s a complex addiction where there’s a chemical addiction, there’s a social element to it and also there’s a behavioural element to it.”
The work continues to expand the no-smoking areas in municipalities. Dawson Creek and Williams Lake have already expanded their smoke free outdoor zones, and there are consultations underway to have Prince George and Quesnel follow suit. But enforcement of those no smoking zones can be a challenge says Megan Klitch, Health Promotion Coordinator with Northern Health “When it comes right down to it, most of these bylaws become self enforced by the public. when people understand what the restrictions are, and why they are so important, they are much more inclined to comply. Smoking bylaws protect children, they support people who want to quit smoking and certainly de-normalizes smoking for children. As well, signage can be very effective in pointing out where these smoke free areas are, all a parent has to do is point to the sign and ask someone very politely not to smoke in the area.”
Nancy Viney says the best practice is to not even try smoking “What we really encourage people to do is to never start, because there’s evidence that smoking one or two cigarettes can make brain changes that make it very difficult to quit.”
There are now a variety of services to help smokers kick the habit, including personalized counselling by phone text or email through Quit Now.ca (www.quitnow.ca).
Free nicotine replacement therapy is available to everyone in B.C. Viney says using such products will increase a smoker’s chance success in kicking the habit.