Public awareness and education campaigns are necessary weapons in the war on tobacco, and critical to those campaigns are the personal stories of those who've kicked the habit. After all, it's individuals who decide they want to quit and it's individuals whose stories of failure and success inspire others to do the same.
That's why National Non-Smoking Week, which runs until Saturday, is so important. It provides a forum for those who've mastered their addiction to tobacco to share their stories and hopefully provide encouragement to the 20 per cent of Islanders who still smoke; they, too, can change.
What was particularly convincing about the story told this year by Andrew Sprague of Charlottetown, who quit six months ago after smoking for 20 years, was that it focused clearly on the benefits of kicking the habit. "I feel better, I smell better, my teeth are whiter, my hands are cleaner and I'm saving about $100 a week," he said in an interview with The Guardian. But the most compelling sentiment expressed by Sprague who, with his wife, is expecting their first child, was this: "The thought of holding a baby after having a cigarette made me feel badly about myself. There was no way I wanted a child to see me smoking or to be exposed to second-hand smoke."
This is important food for thought for those still labouring under the yoke of tobacco addiction. If there's anything that experts in any lifestyle change seem to agree on it's that people seeking to make a change have to do it for themselves, not others, and for reasons they themselves have identified. Whether the challenge is losing weight, or giving up tobacco or alcohol, if people can stay focused on the dividends rather than the sacrifices, they stand a better chance of succeeding. Sprague's story seems to be a vivid illustration of this point. It also has the potential to empower others still struggling to quit smoking. They, too, can do the deed when and if they become convinced that the benefits outweigh the sacrifices.
By many accounts, smoking is one of the hardest addictions to kick, but over the decades, judging from our shift as a majority smoking society to a majority non-smoking one, it's clear that it can be done. Occasions like National Non-Smoking Week highlight this and toss a lifeline to those considering giving up tobacco. When they're ready, there's help out there. Groups like the Canadian Cancer Society can offer the support smokers need to join the majority.
Showcasing our music
Prince Edward Island will be well-represented this year at the East Coast Music Awards in Halifax in March. More than a dozen Island artists have been nominated for awards, including singer-songwriters Rose Cousins and Tim Chaisson, each with four nominations.
Islanders will also be well-represented in many of the showcases during the conference week, including the RBC Breakout Stage, which features the talent of new musicians.
The ECMAs are a forum for recognizing Atlantic Canadian artists for their creative and technical skill, but they also represent an opportunity for artists to mingle, work together and learn from one another. In a nutshell, the whole event is a celebration of the growing East Coast music industry and it's exciting to see Prince Edward Island artists playing their part in it.