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The Journey to Become Smoke-Free

from the June 13, 2011 issue of Connect

The Journey to Become Smoke-Free

For those who smoke, making the move to become smoke-free can be the single most important step toward achieving a healthy lifestyle – but it can also be one of the most challenging. That’s why many who try to quit often fail – and why a team of health-care providers at Women’s College Hospital’s Family Practice Health Centre is working to make a smoke-free life a realistic and attainable goal for patients who are seeking to kick the habit.

While a formal smoking cessation program has been available to Family Practice patients for 25 years, a group format has been offered for the past four years, and the Family Practice team has recently produced a booklet, called The Journey to Become Smoke-Free Workbook, to facilitate the group classes.

“The workbook can be a helpful guide for those who aren’t able to attend the four-week course,” says Mary Novak, RN. “That’s why we put the workbook online to give free access to anyone looking to begin the journey to become smoke-free.”

The 36-page workbook, like the program, is based on a unique, solution-focused cognitive behavioural therapy technique. Building on people’s strengths and based on the idea that people are motivated by what they have to look forward to, it focuses on the positive aspects of a life without smoking, such as achieving better health and wellness. It also asks the reader to consider outside factors that affect the success of a cessation program, such as how to better manage stress, diet, sleep and personal relationships.

“We don’t like to say ‘quit’ smoking,” adds Novak. “It sends the message that there is some kind of loss or sacrifice in a person’s life, and that’s stressful for anyone who is accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Instead we say, become ‘smoke-free’ because that indicates a gain, a freedom – which really, it is, because you’re gaining better health when you are free of the smoke.”

The workbook was created by Novak and Family Practice team members Behnaz Abedi, clinical dietician; Karen Burrell, social worker; and Dr. Helen Batty, who pioneered the interprofessional smoking cessation program in 1986 and has been educating physicians and health-care providers on smoking cessation counselling for the last 25 years.

“In the 1980s, there was a disconnect between patients and their health-care teams – patients lacked resources on how to become smoke-free, and physicians and health-care providers lacked resources on how to counsel patients about it,” says Novak. “Today, a lot has changed. Identifying smokers and offering them help is routine practice in our Family Practice Health Centre, and everybody contributes. When recording a patient’s history, all our nurses and doctors ask every patient about their smoking status, and for those who do smoke, without judgment, we ask if they are interested in leaving it behind. All patients have a plan to become smoke-free. We just keep bringing up the topic and give the patient a chance to verbalize what their own plan is. For those who aren’t ready to give it up just now, we support the plan they have and advise that they are right to consider it soon. If they are ready now, we celebrate their plan and ask how we can help and offer the group. At this point, our work as group leaders is easy. Patients who smoke can come to the group classes at any stage of readiness. That’s what the program – and the workbook – is all about.”

The Journey to Become Smoke-Free Workbook is available by clicking here.

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