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Prizes provide incentive to quit smoking

Last updated: January 10, 2011

Source: The Record

Many people are determined to quit smoking as a New Year’s resolution. The chance to win big prizes may help people keep their resolve to kick the bad habit.

The Canadian Cancer Society launched its annual Driven to Quit Challenge today. Tobacco users who quit for the month of March can win prizes, including a new Honda CR-Z hybrid, Honda Insight hybrid, $5,000 vacation getaways and $2,000 MasterCard gift cards.

“We know that people are looking for incentives to quit smoking and this is a great time to do it,” said Monica Bennett, regional co-ordinator for the society’s Smokers’ Helpline.

Last year, 29,000 people registered — a record number for the annual challenge, now in its sixth year. About 130,000 people joined the challenge since its start. This year occasional smokers can enter, too.

“Occasional smokers can turn into daily smokers,” Bennett said.

One in five Ontario adults are tobacco users, including cigarettes, cigars and chew tobacco, according to a December survey. Half have tried unsuccessfully to quit.

Bennett encourages people to call the smokers’ helpline before March to get started on a plan.

“Nicotine is a very powerful substance, very addictive, and the withdrawal can be really difficult,” Bennett said. “You have to be prepared for what you’re going to do through those tough times.”

The Canadian Cancer Society’s smokers’ helpline is a free, confidential service providing personalized support, advice and information about quitting smoking by phone, online and text messaging. Call 1-877-513-5333 or go to

People can also chat online with other people trying to quit.

“It’s a very supportive, encouraging environment,” Bennett said.

And that goes a long way in helping people stay smoke-free. People registering for the challenge need to find a buddy to help them get through March without tobacco. Buddies can win a $200 gift card.

“We know support makes all the difference,” Bennett said.

More than half of Ontario adults have used tobacco products. On average, people try more than three times to quit.

“Everyone has to come up with what will work for them,” Bennett said.

Remembering four tips for quitting can help. Delay a cigarette, then often the craving passes. Distract yourself by doing something different, such as going for a walk. Take a deep breath. Some smokers only take a deep breath when they smoke, but deep breathing has great benefits. And drink water as a substitute.

National Non-Smoking Week is the third week in January.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. Yet many people still smoke.

“It is surprising,” said Donna Nicholson, a public health nurse in the region’s tobacco and cancer prevention program. “I guess that says something about how hard it is for smokers to quit.”

Region of Waterloo Public Health, which has a tobacco information line at 519-883-2279, partners with the Cancer Society in the Driven to Quit Challenge, along with other health units.

Smoking rates vary across Waterloo Region. Cambridge is at 24.4 per cent, Kitchener at 23, the townships at 17.8 and Waterloo is the lowest at 13.6 per cent. Smoking is highest among people age 20 to 44.

Canada’s smoking rate was 18 per cent among those 15 and older in 2009, down from 25 per cent in 1999, according to Statistics Canada.

Nicholson urges people to set a date to quit and stick to it.

Nicotine’s hold is strong, she said, but behaviour has a lot to do with smoking, too. People need to identify situations that trigger smoking and then try to avoid those or find another activity.

“Think about changing things up so you’re not so tempted,” Nicholson said.

And don’t be frustrated by failed attempts to quit. Each one does bring a person closer to being smoke-free.

“It does often take more than one try to quit smoking,” Nicholson said. “They have to be motivated to quit and work at it.”

For more details on the challenge or to register, go to Registration is open until Feb. 28. Those registering in January can qualify to win a $1,000 gift card. People who have quit in the new year can also register. Winners will be announced in April.

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