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Holy smokes! Tips to live a tobacco and vapour free life

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Brown boots on dirt trail with yellow leaves.
Photo credited to CC Search

Way to go – you’ve decided to quit using commercial tobacco and/or vapour products! Quitting smoking, vapour, or other commercial tobacco products is one of the best things you can do for your health. Tobacco and vapour use affects the body and puts you at increased risk of developing major chronic diseases (heart disease, lung disease and cancer). Through hard work and determination, you can succeed to live tobacco and/or vapour free!

Nicotine

Did you know that when you crave tobacco or vapour, what you’re really craving is nicotine? Nicotine is a chemical found in both products that’s believed by experts to be just as addictive as opioids, alcohol, and cocaine.

Nicotine has many effects on your body and your health. For example, nicotine may impact your appetite and your metabolism (the rate your body uses energy). Smoking can also impact your experience of eating as it can dull your sense of smell and taste.

Concerns on quitting

A common concern for people who are thinking about quitting is that they will gain weight. Although it’s possible that a small weight gain may occur in the first few months of quitting, it is not a certainty. Please don’t let the fear of potential weight gain stop you from making the decision to quit! The health benefits from quitting far outweigh (pun intended) any supposed risks from a few extra pounds. Worries around weight are fueled by diet culture, which values and equates health with thinness. However, body size isn’t an accurate measure of health. Health exists in bodies of all shapes and sizes. Health is the result of things mostly outside our control (our genes, where we live, the services available in our community, our income, etc.) and some that may be within our control (e.g. behaviours like smoking, activity, eating).

Fact: It’s recommended for those in the process of quitting tobacco and/or vapour to make supportive health changes for optimal success.

Examples of supportive health changes

  • Feed yourself faithfully with regular meals and planned snacks.
  • Listen and respond to your body’s internal cues of appetite, hunger, fullness and satiety to guide what and how much you will eat.
  • Take time to enjoy food.
  • Manage nicotine cravings and stress by getting active – exercise can produce the same pleasant effects (i.e. calming sensation, enhanced mood, etc.) as nicotine.
  • Aim to get active most days of the week. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week of activity – or about 30 minutes per day – but the key is to remember that any amount of activity is better than none, and can help fight cravings.
  • Replace smoking with another activity that is beneficial to your health - find an activity that you find enjoyable and want to do regularly (e.g. go for a walk, hike, or bike ride with a friend, yoga, dance, garden, join a cooking class, take up a craft, etc.). Having a different activity to fall back on can improve your chances of quitting for good. Although the greatest health benefits result from combining healthy behaviours with quitting smoking, being active will provide some risk reduction even before or while you are quitting. Don’t wait – get active today!

It is a good time to quit or limit your intake

There are many reasons why one should quit tobacco and vapour products. Quitting is the best thing one can do to protect themselves and others from heart and lung disease.

There is also an increased risk to the COVID-19 virus by those who smoke or vape through frequent hand-to-mouth contact and sharing of products in social settings.

If you or someone you know is interested in quitting or decreasing tobacco or vapour use, encourage them to talk to their primary care provider (such as a doctor or nurse practitioner).

The following cessation resources can also be accessed:

  • QuitNow offers free information, support, and counseling from trained professionals by phone, text, or email.
  • BC Smoking Cessation Program offers everyone in BC 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch, inhaler and lozenges) per calendar year through their local pharmacy.
  • First Nations Health Authority benefits program offers supplementary coverage for nicotine replacement therapy.
  • Walk or Run to Quit helps tobacco users quit smoking while learning to walk or run 5 km over the course of a 10-week training program, which can be completed in person or virtually depending on geographic location.

In this post, as in most public health messages, “tobacco use” refers to the use of commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco as opposed to traditional uses of tobacco.