Co-operative Health Centre helping people Prepare to Quit

Jodi Schellenberg
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Many people who want to quit smoking don’t know where to turn -- luckily the Co-operative Health Centre in Prince Albert is there to help.

Donna Turner, a respiratory therapist at the Co-operative Health Centre, presents to those gathered at the Prepare to Quit course on Wednesday.

Last year, the health centre created a Prepare to Quit program for people who are thinking about quitting but either need more information or are not quite ready to take that step yet.

“It is an interactive session for people to become prepared to quit,” said respiratory therapist Donna Turner. “It is just an information hour that gives them little ideas for when they have decided to (try to quit).

“When they come to see us, they are thinking about quitting but not really setting a date or any of that -- it is really just a very far off idea in their head,” she added. “We are giving them information on how to find success when they finally do make that attempt to quit.”

The Prepare to Quit program will give the participants information about different programs in the area and techniques that may help.

“We are not saying you have to quit, here is your date and that is it -- this is just why should you quit,” Turner said.

They will go through the participants pros and cons list and help them discover triggers, how to avoid weight gain or how to get through stressful situations.

“We give them those resources and helpful tips, so when they decide to quit they will be successful,” Turner said

It also helps people realize that quitting is not easy and there are a lot of helpful tips for those looking to quit. Turner said sometimes the other participants will tell stories of past attempts, giving the others pointers like switching up their routine, dumping out their car ashtray or cutting back on caffeine so they don’t relapse.

“They don’t have a relapse as easy if we give them some of those ideas,” Turner said. “There are lots of things people will say I tried for two weeks and then this happened. That is useful for the people at this program because then they go, ‘Oh I never thought of that.’

“They have to really think about lifestyle change at the same time as quitting smoking”

Once they decide if they are going to quit or not, Turner said they can either come back to see her or her fellow Prepare to Quit leader, or look at other smoking cessation programs in the city.

“What we have done is partnered with Safeway, who have two smoking cessation counsellors through the pharmacy,” Turner said. “We felt we didn’t want to pull away from other resources in the community.”

They spoke with different organization in the community and Safeway was on board to help.

“The pharmacy does have time set aside for smoking cessation efforts with clients,” Turner said. “When you have decided to make that quit attempt, you can come back to us or you could go through that program.”

The program Safeway offers is called Partnership to Assist with the Cessation of Tobacco (PACT), which walks the patient through steps to help them quit.

The partnership was ideal, because Safeway is able to help people on the front line since they sell product like nicorette and can educate people when they come to the pharmacy.

“We do breathing tests and education for breathing problems here,” Turner said. “We catch people at a different angle -- they are sick and they may be smoking or they may live with people who smoke. They aren’t necessarily always looking to quit smoking, but know they should quit.”

The program has garnered a little bit of response from the community -- the session held before Christmas had about eight participants and they have seen a total of between 12 to 15 people.

“That’s not bad. We always look at if we help one person to quit smoking than that is great and they can share that with someone else and how they did and open it up to other people to also be able to do the same thing,” Turner said.

The program is held bi-monthly. The last session was on March 5, but there will be another on May 7, before taking a break for the summer months.

Those interested in the program can call her at 306-953-6259.

In addition to the Prepare to Quit program, Turner is hoping to start up a companion program called Prepare to Run based on a program on the east coast.

“They took all of these smokers -- either current or had just quit -- who were still struggling with smoking,” Turner said. “They gave them a learn to run program.

“The idea of it was that they wanted to inspire them, that if they could actually make a five-kilometre run, then they could have the confidence then to finally quit smoking,” she added.

The program would help those who are struggling with smoking to have the confidence to quit.

“A lot of their ability to quit smoking is based on their confidence level,” Turner said. “A lot of times they aren’t really convinced they can do it. If we can help them to understand they could if they just realize there are just a few tricks they can use to get through it, if we show them with the running program that if you can do that, train as a smoker to run five kilometres, you can quit.”  

It also shows them they can fill the gap they might feel in their lives from lack of smoking with another activity.

Turner hopes to start the program sometime in the spring.

The dangers of smoking

Smoking is the cause of many illnesses, the most common being lung cancer, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. In Canada, smoking is estimated to be responsible for 30 per cent of all cancer deaths and related to more than 85 per cent of lung cancer cases.

In addition to lung cancer, smoking also causes lung damage, which is noticeable if you feel out of breath when walking up a short flight of stairs, cough a lot, spit up mucus or have repeat chest infections.

The reason smoking has such a determential affect on health is because it contains more than 4,000 chemicals and poisons, 70 which are known to cause cancer. Some of the poisons are carbon monoxide, ammonia, cadmium and arsenic.

Cigarettes also contain nicotine, which is what makes them so addictive.

Health benefits to quitting

After quitting, your body will start to cleanse itself of poison.

Within eight hours, the oxygen levels in your blood increase and carbon monoxide levels drop. After two days, the sense of smell and taste begin to improve.

The benefits continue, with former smokers finding it easier to breath within two weeks to three months and coughing, sinus congestion, tiredness and shortness of breath improving in six months.

In addition, after one year the risk of a smoking-related heart attack is reduced by half.

Looking to quit?

In addition to the PACT programs offered in Prince Albert, there are a number of other ways people can receive help.

The Ministry of Health has a helpline at 1-877-513-5333 or at

Another program is Quit for Life, focused on helping young people quit smoking. More information is available on their website at

Organizations: Safeway, Canadian Cancer Society, Ministry of Health

Geographic location: Canada

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