Queen’s students promote WouldURather smoking cessation contest

Students with the Leave the Pack Behind organization collaborate with Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health

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This year, Queen’s students Joseph Lee and Jennifer Dal Cin have been working with Leave the Pack Behind social change organization to pursue their vision of a smoke-free Ontario.

Leave the Pack Behind is a provincial tobacco control program that has provided young adults with smoking and quitting information and personalized support since 2000.

Each year, Leave the Pack Behind hosts WouldURather — an annual six-week-long smoking cessation contest targeted at young adults ages 18 to 29 in Ontario.

This year, Lee, ArtSci ’18 and Dal Cin, ArtSci ’19, have facilitated a collaboration between Leave the Pack Behind and Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFLA) Public Health to promote the contest on campus. According to Lee, the WouldURather contest tries to motivate young adults to quit smoking by making the process easier on them.

 From right to left: Nicole Szumlanski, Beth Blackett and Joseph Lee.

“The WouldURather contest is offered to make quitting smoking a little bit easier by providing young adults with the motivation and encouragement they need to make a quit attempt, and by connecting them to different cessation resources available on and off campus,” Lee said.

Even though WouldURather offers $10,000 in cash prizes thanks to funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health, Lee also hopes the contest will make students more aware of the free smoking cessation resources available on campus.

“We need to have an awareness campaign about the quitting resources Queen’s offers,” Lee said. “Not many students know about the free nicotine patches, gum or smoking cessation lifestyle appointments.”

The first of its kind, this year’s contest will have four categories designed to include all smokers, regardless of lifestyle differences or varying intensities of addiction. There are awards for quitting permanently, decreasing tobacco use by 50 per cent, avoiding smoking when drinking and partying, as well as staying smoke-free. 

For Lee, the ‘Party Without the Smoke’ category is especially relevant to students. “The biggest trigger is the peers around them [students],” he said.” Often we see, when students are partying with their peers, with alcohol, they often have an association with tobacco.” 

Lee hopes the contest will “disconnect that trigger between tobacco products and alcohol products” by encouraging students to avoid smoking at parties. He also plans to facilitate more campus involvement by creating awareness about smoking cessation support. 

“By partnering with various on-campus clubs, they can disseminate our message and our current social marketing campaigns to the students they interact with,” Lee said.

Nicole Szumlanski, a KFLA Public Health Nurse who specializes in smoking cessation, spoke to The Journal about social smoking, a powerful trigger for student tobacco use.

“The problem with social smoking is that it can lead to everyday smoking,” she said. “We don’t know how much nicotine your brain needs to get hooked. It could be one cigarette, it could be a week of smoking. It varies per brain, it varies per genetics. There’s so many factors.”

Szumlanski said the contest’s expectation isn’t for young adults to quit smoking on their first attempt.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about getting people who smoke to continually try to quit,” she said. “It’s skill-building, and knowing what’s out there as support.”

Beth Blackett, Health Professional Liaison at Queen’s Health Promotion and Student Wellness Services, spoke to The Journal about the free nicotine replacement therapy available for Queen’s students. Smoking cessation strategy consultations, incorporating treatments such as nicotine patches and gum, are bookable through the Student Wellness website.

“We work with each person individually to figure out their triggers and behaviours, and that can be paired up with free nicotine replacement therapy,” Blackett said. “The amount that someone smokes, or the triggers people have, definitely vary from person to person. It’s nice to meet with people one-on-one and start from where they’re at.”

Registration for the WouldURather contest closes on Jan. 28, following National Non-Smoking week. Smoking cessation information and support is available through the KFL&A Public Health Tobacco Information Line, 613-549-1232, or til@kflapublichealth.ca

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