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Health Services collaborates with Leave the Pack Behind to help students quit smoking

Sabrina Nemis | Fulcrum Staff

ALISON MACKENZIE SAYS she was always drawn to the smell. It wasn’t meant to be a long-term lifestyle choice.

“If I had known at 16 that I would smoke for almost a decade, I would’ve been really surprised,” she says. “I just never thought that I would smoke that long.”

Eventually her concerns for her health, her budget, and her looks overcame her desire to smoke, but she failed to quit a number of times. She tried several methods, even consulting a hypnotist.

Mackenzie is a first-year education student at the University of Ottawa who’s taken an interest in the many support services Health Services offers students, namely the provincial stop-smoking initiative Leave the Pack Behind.

“The goal of Leave the Pack Behind is to make smoking cessation services available to students at every post-secondary institution in Ontario,” says student health coordinator Greg Killough.

The U of O has a team of eight students working with Leave the Pack Behind to promote awareness of the services they offer to support faculty, staff, and students who want to quit smoking.

One of the initiatives is wouldurather…, a contest for students who want to stop smoking, cut down on smoking, stop smoking socially, or just stay smoke-free. Students who cut out or cut down their tobacco use from Jan. 28 to March 11 are entered into a draw for a chance to win up to $1,000.

Although she hasn’t smoked for several months, Mackenzie likes the concept of the contest and the way it operates. In the process of quitting, she often rewarded herself by spending the money she would have spent on cigarettes shopping for new things.

“When I was smoking, I was spending about 90 bucks a month on cigarettes, easily,” she says. “It would be nice to have materialistic items to show for my efforts.”

If you’re a smoker and missed the deadline for the contest, Leave the Pack Behind still has a lot to offer. Nicotine patches and gum are available for free at the university’s health clinic.

On Wednesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., students can test their carbon monoxide level with a machine that looks a bit like a breathalyser. It’s a procedure students trying to quit tend to find helpful.

“They actually see their numbers go down, so it’s a nice actual measure of the level of carbon monoxide in their blood,” Killough explains.

Also available are quit kits, which provide information about health, quitting, and community services. If students need more support to quit, Leave the Pack Behind can also offer a referral to Health Services to speak with a cessation counsellor.

“I think the big thing for me is making people aware that there are services and support for people who want to quit or reduce their smoking,” says Killough. “They can come and see us anytime in UCU 203, at our office, check out our website as well, and if they want more clinical support, we have great people at the clinic.”

Students can get support from staff and volunteers at the Health Promotion Resources Centre by visiting UCU 203 or by calling 613-564-3950.