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Calling it quits.

Mary Lynn Pender, the director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Smokers’ Helpline, said smokers need only to call the toll-free number printed on cigarette packages to get help with their addiction. Contributed
Mary Lynn Pender, the director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Smokers’ Helpline, said smokers need only to call the toll-free number printed on cigarette packages to get help with their addiction. Contributed

According to Mary Lynn Pender, the director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Smokers’ Helpline, the province has the highest rate of smoking in the country.

Approximately 20 per cent of the province’s population aged 15 years and older smokes, she said. The national average is 15 per cent.

The good news is that help with smoking cessation is just a phone call away.

“Anyone who would like help with quitting can call the phone number on the cigarette package [1-866-366-3667] to directly reach the helpline based here in this province,” Pender said.

When a smoker calls the helpline, Pender said, different approaches to quitting are discussed. “We’re right here to talk to you and we have a lot of online support as well that we let [the caller] know about,” she said.

While many people, including seniors, often choose to access information online, information packages can also be mailed to those interested in smoking cessation.

There are about 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke and about 70 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer, Pender said.

According to long-term studies, she said, one in two people who smoke will end up dying prematurely from a smoking-related illness, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and lung disease.

Smoking also affects people’s immune systems, Pender said, making them vulnerable to common colds and influenza. As well, Pender said, those who quit smoking have more energy once the toxic chemicals are removed from their body.

There are health benefits to quitting smoking, no matter your age, she said. “Even if someone is at the point where smoking has already affected them, quitting is the best thing they can do for their health and quality of life,” she said.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Smokers’ Helpline is a program of the Lung Association — Newfoundland and Labrador, with funding support from the provincial and federal governments.

“We are out in the community providing information to the general public and to health-care providers ... doing everything we can to promote smoking cessation,” Pender said.

People are also told about different medications that are available to help them quit, she added. Studies show some effective ways to quit smoking include using a nicotine replacement product, a medication and behavioural counselling support from a health-care professional or through the helpline.

According to information provided by the Newfoundland and Labrador Smokers’ Helpline, there is a program for individuals who are covered under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program to help with the cost of smoking cessation medications.

Pender said it’s important for people to realize smoking is an addiction rather than a habit.

“People get used to getting that constant hit of nicotine. You get that feeling of pleasure or relaxation ... your body gets used to getting that and, even when they go to quit smoking, even for just a few hours without that cigarette, they get that real strong urge to smoke.”

Quick tips are available to help reduce those cravings, she said. One important thing to keep in mind, she added, is to never give up, as it often takes multiple attempts before success is achieved.

“We understand you might not be ready to quit tomorrow and we don’t put any pressure on people. It’s more about creating a plan to take the next step [to smoking cessation],” she said.

In addition to the toll-free number on cigarette packages, people can also access information and support by calling 1-800-363-5864, visiting smokershelp.net, emailing shl@nf.lung.ca or texting 709-700-7002.

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