Province helps smokers butt it out

Ukee woman shares journey towards quitting smoking cold turkey.

If cutting cigarettes out of your life made it onto your News Year’s Resolution list, the provincial government wants to help you out.

BC’s Health Minister Terry Lake has announced that, as of Jan. 1, British Columbia’s smokers can join the province’s Smoking Cessation Program and access free nicotine replacement therapy products at any community pharmacy in BC.

These products include nicotine lozenges, inhalers, nicotine gum and the nicotine skin patch.

“We changed the program to make it easier for people who are trying to quit smoking, or trying again,” Lake said. “I have seen friends and family struggle to break their terrible addiction to cigarettes. I hope this improved program helps others avoid the same struggle and the health problems that come from smoking.”

The province launched the Smoking Cessation Program in 2011 and has invested over $38 million into the program, which has been accessed by about 187,000 people, since then, according to recent media release.

The release suggests cigarettes kill about 6,000 British Columbians every year.

“Best of luck to everyone trying to quit, and congratulations on taking this important step toward improving your health. You’re also protecting the health of your family, as second-hand smoke causes numerous health problems, especially in infants and children,” Lake said. “If you’ve tried to quit before, try again. Research shows most smokers have to try quitting more than once to be successful.”

Ucluelet local Courtney Johnson was in Grade 9 when she smoked her first cigarette.

“I remember my girlfriends and I all wanted to try it so a friend of ours got us a pack. We felt so rebellious,” Johnson told the Westerly News.

Johnson added that she remembers seeing her stepfather smoke and thinking he was cool.

Children with parents who smoke are about two times more likely to smoke than children with parents who don’t, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

By age 14 Johnson had embarked on an on-again-off-again relationship with cigarettes.

“The funny thing is, I never thought of myself as a ‘smoker’. I just thought of myself as somebody who smoked sometimes,” she said. “How’s that for denial?”

She said she quit several times but was repeatedly brought back in by social triggers.

“Part of the problem is that when I’m in a social gathering where people are smoking I like to smoke too,” she said.

“But when I’m not around smokers or in a social atmosphere where smoking is present, I can’t even stand the smell. Brains are funny things sometimes.”

After trying several smoking cessation products during previous battles with nicotine addiction, Johnson is currently taking a cold turkey approach.

“I’ve decided I want to quit smoking because I’m really tired of it,” she said. “I’m a singer and I don’t wanted to affect my voice, and I teach kids and I want to be a role model to them.”

She acknowledged she’s hit a few speed bumps on her current road to a smoke free lifestyle.

“I may have slipped up on New Years,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean I’ve fallen off the non-smoking wagon…It just means that I made that decision for one evening and I keep trying.”

She said support from her parents has been key in her current successful breakup with smoking and she encourages others to support the quitters in their lives.

“Always encourage people to be the healthiest and happiest version of themselves,” she said. “It’s always a great thing to be supportive of another’s goals…I think being encouraging is the best thing. Being negative or judgmental if someone fails just does not help.”

She also encourages current smokers to take at least one step towards quitting in 2016.

“Try your best. No one is perfect and you have to find a technique that works for you,” she said.

“At the very least cut back. Start with little changes, like not smoking in your car, for example. And if you fail, own that failure and keep trying.”