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'Never too late to quit': Weedless Wednesday campaign hopes to help smokers butt-out for good

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National Non-Smoking Week is underway in Canada, and Wednesday marked "Weedless Wednesday." The campaign asks smokers to butt-out for 24 hours to help quit the habit for good.

"Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, so there are many harms," said Dr. Renelle Myers, a respirologist at B.C. Cancer and the medical director of the Smoking Cessation Program.

Those harms include increased risks of heart disease, stroke and of course, cancers.

"Including head and neck cancers, general urinary cancers, so the urinary track system, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, obviously lung cancer," said Myers.

Lung cancer is one of the major leading causes of cancer deaths in B.C.

"In British Columbia, almost 4,000 patients will be diagnosed with lung cancer [this year]," said Myers.

That said, B.C. does have the lowest smoking rate in Canada.

Across the province, 12 per cent of the population on the Lower Mainland smoke. In Northern B.C., 28 per cent of the population smokes.

In the middle, the Interior sits at 18 per cent while Vancouver Island has smoking rates of 14 per cent.

"It is never too late to quit," said Myers.

Though the experts agree, it’s an addiction that is extremely difficult to break.

"It is not easy and a lot of people get so frustrated and disappointed when they cannot quit smoking," said Menn Biagtan, vice president of Health Initiatives and Programs with the BC Lung Foundation.

The BC Lung Foundation says don’t give up trying to quit. Every attempt you make gets you that much closer to actually succeeding.

The first step to quitting is recognizing the symptoms of withdrawal and knowing they will pass.

"You feel like, 'I don’t want this feeling, I don’t want to do this anymore,'" said Biagtan.

Those symptoms include nicotine cravings, feeling irritated or depressed, trouble sleeping and food cravings.

"Simply because your sense of taste has come back," said Biagtan.

As for the act of quitting, experts say the best methods vary per individual.

"I think it depends on your determination and motivation to quit," said Biagtan.

Tips for quitting include making a plan and sticking to it. Seek out smoking cessations products like sprays or gums, speak to a doctor to see if prescription medications are right for you, and for some, acupuncture has been proven successful.

The website quitnow.ca has an app to help you through the process of quitting, allowing you to speak with a "stop smoking" coach.

"People should realize that they can quit by taking it one day at a time," said Biagtan.

It’s hoped that Weedless Wednesday will be a catalyst to butt-out for good. 

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