BY MATT HOWELL
As a new year is upon us, ways to better ourselves come to the forefront. Whether the goal is to eat better, exercise more or drink less alcohol, a new year tends to invoke feelings of change.
At the top of many people’s list of resolutions is to quit smoking, and with a batch of new laws restricting smoking in many public areas, it’s becoming even more apparent how frowned upon it has become. That’s what makes the Leave The Pack Behind campaign so important. It’s a great way to possibly win some cash while also taking charge of your health.
The Ontario government funds the Leave The Pack Behind initiative, which started in 2000. It is a tobacco control program that offers smoking and quitting information to young adults through personalized support and resources.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 one in five, or about 5.8 million Canadians, smoked. And though tobacco use is down from a decade ago, recent studies have estimated that 21 per cent of all deaths in the last decade are due to smoking.
Conestoga has stood behind the initiative for the past few years, and has put together a team to promote quitting through education and support. A big part of the campaign is the Would You Rather contest, which is split into four categories. Don’t Start and Win is for students who are already smoke-free and want to stay that way. Party Without The Smoke is aimed at students who are social smokers. Keep The Count is for people who smoke but are encouraged to cut back by 50 per cent. Quit For Good is the final category, with students having a chance at winning a $2,500 grand prize.
Bianca Colcer is the co-ordinator for the campaign at Conestoga, and believes that this contest is important and doesn’t just focus on negative messages about smoking.
“We’re here to show students that we can be supportive. We are encouraging them to cut down on their smoking or not start. And if they feel like they are ready to quit, we are definitely there to help them with resources and support,” Colcer said.
Research shows that students are twice as likely to quit using the campaign’s services over quitting cold turkey. The Would You Rather contest has garnered a five to 10 per cent quit rate.
Colcer is also very enthusiastic about the new smoking bylaws that came into effect on Jan. 1.
“I know some smokers feel like they are getting very restricted with the places they can smoke, however, it’s very important to encourage a smoke-free environment, especially on campus. Making sure that school environments are smoke-free helps prevent smoking initiation and can help stop the problem before it begins,” Colcer said.
The Leave The Pack Behind campaign offers free nicotine replacement therapies including nicotine patches and gum, but Colcer also wants to remind students that they can get even more support through Health Services at Conestoga.
There is also a program that the campaign team runs that is called Quit Run Chill, which is aimed at helping smoking and non-smoking students who are stressed out to get into exercising instead of lighting up.
Joe Dang, a second-year television broadcast student, is a smoker who just found out about the contest.
“It does make people want to quit. It’s encouraging and it feels good to receive something back for dropping the disgusting habit,” Dang said.
To sign up or for more information on the Would You Rather contest and the campaign, go to www.wouldurather.ca.