© Photo special to The Guardian by Pam Bernard Photography
Holland College students A.J. MacIntyre and Kathleen Lutz are challenging each other to quit smoking during National Non-Smoking Week. The students are part of the Dare2Quit challenge being promoted by the Canadian Cancer Society and Holland College Student Union.
Students at Holland College are taking on a new challenge this semester as eight of them have vowed to try to quit smoking and to encourage others to do the same.
It is part of a campaign called Dare2Quit, which will see them, over the next six weeks, commit to giving up tobacco and to sharing their experiences through social media.
They will write about the challenges they face and the triumphs they experience on blogs, Twitter and Facebook.
The president of the Student Union at Holland College is one of the students taking up the challenge. A.J. MacIntyre, a 25-year-old in the business administration program, hopes his actions motivate others.
“I always told myself that I would never be a smoker and I put down others who did smoke. But I started when I was working in Alberta in 2012. It was part of the culture there. I said I would give it up when I came home, but that never happened,” says MacIntyre.
“I was very naive about the effects that it has. It’s an addiction and it’s hard to quit.”
It is hoped that smokers will be inspired by MacIntyre and the other students to take up the challenge and become tobacco free. The Dare2Quit campaign is sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society with funding from the P.E.I. Department of Health and Wellness and Health Canada.
More than 20 per cent of young adults on Prince Edward Islander are smokers. Twenty- to thirty-year-olds have the highest smoking rate of any age group in the country.
Kathleen Lutz of Morell is strongly motivated to quit smoking. Lutz, a student in the foundation program at Holland College, has been smoking since she was 14 years old. She says she’s tired of seeing the negative impacts of smoking.
“All four of my grandparents died of smoking-related illnesses. Two years ago in July my father was diagnosed with cancer. It means a lot to him that I quit now. It means a lot to my mother, too,” says Lutz. “I just feel that it’s time. It’s never going to get any easier.”
“We’re delighted these students are making a serious effort to quit smoking,” says Lori Barker, the executive director of the Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. division.
“Smoking is a powerful addiction and I’d never suggest that quitting is easy, but the fact remains that smoking kills about 37,000 Canadians every year,” says Barker.
According to the 2013 Canadian Cancer Statistics Report, P.E.I. has the highest mortality rate for lung cancer in the country. More than 100 Islanders die from lung cancer each year.
“We know that smoking causes about 30 per cent of all cancer deaths and approximately 85 per cent of all lung cancer deaths,” says Barker.
“If we are going to prevent cancer, we have to stop smoking and indulging in other risky behaviours. The society is here to help those who want to make the change, so people don’t have to go it alone.”
MacIntyre is looking for immediate rewards.
“I can’t wait to feel healthy again, to not have that cough in the morning and to be able to run upstairs feeling short of breath,” says MacIntyre.
Both MacIntyre and Lutz also look forward to being rid of the financial stress caused by smoking.
“I’m sick of wasting so much money,” says Lutz.
People who smoke a pack a day spend about $4,000 a year on cigarettes (that’s after-tax income). The Canadian Cancer Society provides a free counselling service to help people quit smoking. Contact Smokers’ Helpline at www.smokershelpline.ca or call toll-free 1-877-513-5333.
To follow the students’ journey to becoming tobacco free, search for Dare2Quit on Facebook.
AT A GLANCE
What: The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer.
Why it matters: Thanks to donors and volunteers, the society has the most impact against the most cancers in the most communities in Canada. Building on this progress, it is working with Canadians to change cancer forever.
For more information: Visit cancer.ca or call the toll-free bilingual cancer information service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).