New Year, New You: Motivation to Quit Smoking from the SMDHU

Local Residents Share Their Stories

From the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit:

“You may think stories about the health effects people live with as a result of smoking don’t affect you, but hearing others share their experiences does help to motivate a person to try quitting.

Many local residents who have agreed to share their stories as part of a Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit quit smoking campaign, Tobacco Trade Off, say they had to go through some very tough times before they were able to quit smoking. Others found inspiration from friends who managed to quit despite a heavy addiction, or from a child who asked them if they were going to die because they smoked. Still others found their motivation in the fact that they were starting to have breathing problems or other effects from years of smoking.

South Simcoe resident Charlie Brown shared the horror he went through when he suffered a massive heart attack in his early 50s. His doctor told his wife to gather the children because he likely wouldn’t pull through. When he did – he swore off cigarettes for good.

“I would never have thought that I would end up where I am today. I always thought that I could smoke and it wouldn’t be me that would get cancer, it wouldn’t be me that got sick, it just wouldn’t be me. It wouldn’t be a problem,” says Brown.

“Every day I see someone smoking I wish I could make them stop.”

Orillia resident Anne Duffy says she was never a heavy smoker. She started as a teen, quit as a young mother and then started up again when her career became stressful. Today she has severe asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), has to use three puffers and take “a multitude” of pills every day.

Just, 61 the young grandma says she can’t play with her grandkids the way she would like to and isn’t well enough to look after them on her own.

“Every time I get a cough or sneeze right now I almost panic because ‘is it the start of something bigger?’” My last COPD attack … had me hospitalized and sick and off work for four weeks. So what’s going to happen next time?”

Dave Crake, an active 66 year old from Wasaga Beach remembers a time when he was 60 pounds heavier and spent his days sitting on the couch smoking. A year after he quit he said he felt 10 years younger and had new found energy. But it took a heart attack at just 43 to get him to stop smoking.

“I quit cold turkey. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but I know I wouldn’t be alive today if I didn’t quit,” Crake says. “My wife smoked a bit and we quit together.”

Dave says his best tip came from his younger brother. “He told me to put a toothpick in my mouth and I did that for a year and a half. It helped me break the habit of wanting to put something in my mouth.”

Crake’s advice is to take advantage of helplines and talk to people. Living in Peel Region at the time, he said he got some great support and tips from the local health unit that helped him to stay quit, including how to deal with stress.

“If you get stressed, don’t have a cigarette. The problem that is stressing you will still be there but you’ll also have a smoking problem again.”

Personal stories like these are being shared on a community Facebook page Tobacco-Free Chatter. Residents in Simcoe Muskoka are encouraged to join the page, get involved, share their tips and find support from others who are also trying to quit or who are celebrating quit milestones.

The video stories of community people like Charlie, Anne, and Dave are posted on the page along with information to support people to quit either on their own or with supports such as nicotine replacement therapies and workshops.

“It is estimated that for every person who dies from tobacco use, some 30 others will live with devastating health effects ranging from respiratory diseases like COPD, that makes breathing difficult to strokes, heart disease, vision loss, diabetes complications and can even worsen rheumatoid arthritis,” said Leslie Gordon, tobacco-free living co-ordinator with the health unit working on the campaign.

“Our goal is to get people to think about their health and start to plan or make a quit smoking attempt to protect their health before they are forced to make a tobacco trade-off.

“”It can happen to you, but it doesn’t have to. Quit today.”

Anyone who wants support to quit can call Health Connection weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 or visit the tobacco section on the website