DC, OUIT leaves the pack behind

Photo by Aly Beach

Do you want to quit smoking? The Leave the Pack Behind program offered on campus might be able to help you.

Young adults smoke more than any other age group, and about 2,000 students smoke on campus, according to Campus Health Centre nurse Nicole Daniel. She says approximately one in four smokers have their first cigarette after the age of 18.

“Obviously, being a young adult is stressful, with school, work and balancing everything and often moving out and all those things. So, we want to prevent those people from starting smoking in their college and university years,” says Daniel.

Leave the Pack Behind (LTPB) is an Ontario government funded tobacco control program that offers free personal support for smokers and people who want to quit. It offers free quitting resources, including referrals to the Smoker’s Helpline, and free nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine patches and nicotine gum.

The program targets young adults because if they quit before the age of 30, they reduce their increased risk of health problems, according to Agnes Hsin, research coordinator at LTPB.

One in four smokers have their first cigarette after the age of 18

LTPB first offered its services at Durham College and UOIT in 2009. The program did 44 outreach events at Durham College and 23 at UOIT between September and December 2016. About eight per cent of UOIT smokers and about 12 percent of Durham College smokers used the program’s services, according to Daniel.

Nicotine rates high on the many addictive drugs lists. According to Addictionccentre.com, nicotine is the most commonly used addictive substance in the U.S. and rates at number one on this list.

Nicotine replacement therapy administers nicotine to the body without the smoke and chemicals. The patch gives a small, safe amount of nicotine that is absorbed into the body through the skin. Gum releases a fast but safe amount of nicotine through the mouth.

The idea is that smokers will be able to slowly wean themselves off the nicotine with the patch and beat the cravings with the gum over the course of eight weeks.

“The nicotine is delivered to the body in a more slow, controlled manner, versus if you were to smoke a cigarette,” says Hsin.

She says the patches and gum are among the most successful methods for success. Success rates for quitting are 33 per cent with the patch and 35 per cent with the gum.

Roxanne Fernandes, a Social Service Worker student at Durham College, smoked for 30 years before quitting for one year. She recently started smoking again due to weight gain.

“You’re hooked on it. That’s why I was [smoking] for 30 years. You always want to quit but you’re hooked on it,” says Fernandes, “So, when I quit last year, I had bad, bad withdrawals from it after smoking so long and I smoked a pack a day.”

She recently looked into the LTPB program and ordered some patches. She says she’s going to need it for her next attempt. She also says the program will only work if a person puts the effort into quitting.

The long-term effects of smoking include increased risks of heart disease, various forms of cancer, reproductive damage, according to nurse Daniel. It can also weaken the immune system and the sense of taste.

“Some of the [effects] that students care more about are wrinkled skin, gum and tooth loss,” Says Daniel.

Hsin says quitting is not one-size-fits-all, and what works for some people, may not work for others.

“For those who are ready to quit, I would say: be prepared. Especially when it comes to your quit date. So, I would suggest removing triggers,” says Hsin, “Let’s say if they always smoke with their coffee, I would say trade in their morning coffee for something else, like drinking water, talking on the phone or texting a friend.”

Fernandes is hopeful LTPB will help her quit for good this time.

“I ordered, because I think I’m going to need it when I quit again,” says Fernandes

To try the program, look out for the program’s booths around campus, or make an appointment at the Campus Health Centre.