As local bans and legislation increasingly make smoking socially unacceptable, many people are looking for ways to quit.
I Quit, Concordia’s group cessation program is hoping that the proposed public smoking ban will boost dismal participation rates and encourage students and staff to butt out.
Owen Moran, a health educator at Concordia and the facilitator of the program, says that although people are aware of the health risks involved with tobacco use, the most common reason for smokers to quit is that they “feel like pariahs”.
Indeed, the campaign to discourage tobacco use has taken place on many fronts over the past few years. From graphic pictures on cigarette packages to high taxation on tobacco products and public smoking bans, stigmas on smoking are increasing. And numbers suggest that it might be working. The percentage of adult smokers has dropped from 50 per cent in 1965 to 20 per cent today.
While Moran isn’t sure if the future Montreal by-law banning smoking in any indoor public place will boost enrollment in this October’s program, he has no doubt that it will encourage more people to start the difficult process of quitting.
The reason why quitting is challenging is simple: According to Moran, “The way that nicotine works is it makes you irritable when you’re not smoking”. For most people, it’s simply easier to relieve that irritability by lighting up. This seems to be the biggest obstacle facing quitters, and an issue that the I Quit program attempts to address.
Finding alternatives to ease the irritability caused by nicotine withdrawal is the main goal of the program. Moran cites yoga and meditation as options for helping people in the process of quitting. But Moran says the biggest hurdle in quitting is not physical but psychological. For many smokers, quitting is a matter of realizing why they feel the need to smoke and consciously tackling the problem.
This approach to quitting might be why the I Quit program tends to have a higher success rate than many chemical stop-smoking aids such as the nicotine patch. However, even though success rates are relatively high, the program is still only about 30 or 40 per cent effective, based on monthly updates with participants. This speaks directly to the fact that the struggle to become a non-smoker is far from from easy.
For anyone interested in the I Quit program, there will be an hour long informational meeting October 6 at noon at Sir George William W H-771. Questions about quitting smoking or general health can also be answered at the Health Fair on October 20 in the Mezzanine of the Hall building.