Each year on May 31, countries around the globe recognize World No Tobacco Day.
At this time itís worth pausing for a moment to consider that an estimated 37,000 Canadians die annually due to tobacco. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people each year, of which 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke.
People smoke for many reasons. They smoke out of habit or addiction. Some like the way cigarettes make them look or feel. Others believe that cigarettes help them relax or provide a temporary relief from day to day stress.
Whatever the reason for smoking, there are many better reasons to quit.
Former smokers live longer than those who continue to smoke. In fact, within 48 hours of quitting, lungs start to work better, food starts to taste better and the chance of heart attack starts to decrease. Within a year of quitting, the risk of smoking-related heart attack decreases by 50 per cent. Within 10 years of quitting smoking, the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half.
There are also significant economic benefits to quitting smoking. A pack-a-day smoker will spend more than $3,600 a year on cigarettes. Over five years, this total increases to more than $18,000.
For these, and many other reasons, most people who smoke would like to be free of cigarettes. However, the highly addictive nature of cigarettes can make quitting a challenging task. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent supports available to B.C. residents who want to stop smoking.
The recently launched B.C. Smoking Cessation Program (www.health.gov.bc.ca/pharmacare/stop-smoking/) helps B.C. residents stop smoking by assisting them with the cost of smoking cessation aids. The program offers two choices: free nicotine gum and patches (available by calling HealthLink BC at 8-1-1); or PharmaCare coverage of prescription smoking cessation drugs (available with a doctorís prescription).
QuitNow Services offers free telephone-based advice and support from trained smoking cessation counselors. This service is available 24-hours a day and can be accessed by dialing 8-1-1 or visiting www.quitnow.ca. Other services offered by QuitNow include on-line peer support, text-based support, and access to a number of useful smoking cessation resources.
Healthy lifestyles and smoke-free living are fast becoming the norm. B.C. leads the country with the lowest smoking rate (14.3 per cent) and boasts some of the best stop smoking supports in Canada. There has never been a better time to join the thousands of British Columbians who will quit smoking for good this year.
Editorís note: Robin Reid is the regional tobacco reduction co-ordinator for Vancouver Coastal Health.