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December 20, 2001

Is Quitting Smoking One of Your New Year's Resolutions? Health Links Can Help

From now to mid-February Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, in partnership with Health Links, is piloting an expanded service to offer callers smoking cessation information or counseling.

Individuals can call Health Links at 788-8200 between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. seven days a week to get information about counseling services, print materials, website addresses or cessation programs that are available to help them quit smoking. Callers can also arrange Health Links callbacks to help keep them on track.

"Our public health team developed a comprehensive list of programs and reliable information for the staff at Health Links to assist individuals as they plan for a smoke-free future," said Dr. Sande Harlos, Medical Officer of Health. "While many people are thinking about quitting smoking, it's hard to know how to get started. Research shows that your best bet for quitting successfully combines the use of medication or nicotine replacement products along with support for making lifestyle and behaviour changes. Health Links operators are registered nurses who can offer information and guidance to help individuals choose an approach that will work best for them."

"Most people are aware of the health risks they face by continuing to smoke," said Dr. Harlos. "An increased risk of cancers, heart disease, debilitating lung diseases, and circulation problems are just a few of the risks. When considering quitting, it's important to think about what you gain. The benefits are immediate and ongoing."

Almost immediately after an individual's last cigarette, blood pressure and pulse return to normal and the temperature of their hands and feet increase. After eight hours the carbon dioxide level in their blood drops and oxygen increases to normal. Within a day or two their chance of a heart attack starts to decrease, nerve endings start re-growing and the ability to taste and smell improves. Within a few short weeks circulation and lung function improves. Within a year, energy has increased, coughing and congestion has decreased or stopped, and the extra risk of a heart attack has dropped to half of what it was while smoking. Ten years after quitting, the risk of lung cancer is the same as a non-smoker. Fifteen years after an individual quits smoking the risk of heart disease will return to baseline.

Tips on how to become a former smoker in 2002:

  • Plan ahead. Don't plan to quit at a time of high stress (like the day 20 people are coming over for a holiday meal!).
  • Get all the advice and information you need. The most successful quit plans are ones that combine treatment for the withdrawal from nicotine with lifestyle and behaviour changes. Bupropion (Zyban TM ) and nicotine replacement products (either gum or the patch) are very helpful. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to choose a plan that fits for you.
  • Get support. Ask those around you to help. You will need encouragement and patience. Have someone you can talk to.
  • Get active. Being physically active can help with the stress of quitting, offers a replacement for the activity of smoking, and contributes to the healthy new you.

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