In Helpful Stuff, Substance Use / Compulsions by christineLeave a Comment


Statistics Canada* detail that the number of smokers in Canada is decreasing (18.1% in 2014 compared to 20.8% in 2010). Male smokers lead that of female smokers, and it appears that women are generally butting out in higher numbers than men – except in the territory of Nunavut. Nunavut is home to 59.0% male smokers, and a whopping 65.3% of female smokers (rising from 48.5% and 60.6% in 2010). Here in BC, 17.4% of men are smokers, with 11.3% of women smokers (the lowest population of smokers in Canada).
We *know* smoking is a major health concern. Smoking leads to cancer, heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, COPD and early death.

So why don’t people just quit?

Well, it’s not so simple. Tobacco/nicotine dependence is a condition that often requires repeated treatments. A further challenge for smokers is societal stigma. Smoking is grossly frowned upon. Imagine the support you would have if you were trying to rehabilitate from a physical injury. Now imagine sharing with others your struggles with quitting smoking. Let me guess: feelings of shame and embarrassment came up for you. Diminished self-esteem/self-worth and feelings of hopelessness often have individuals reaching for well-entrenched coping mechanisms. Coping behaviours such as smoking. See the double-bind? We know from modern psychology and effective addiction treatment programs that shaming people does help people quit substances. And then there are the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine/tobacco. Symptoms start within 24 hours to 3 days after one’s last cigarette (depending on how much and how often one smoked).

⦁ Restlessness (up to 3 weeks)
⦁ Increase appetite (often lasting up to 10 weeks)
⦁ Increased muscle tension⦁ Daytime drowsiness
⦁ Excessive sweating⦁ Mouth ulcers (6 weeks)
⦁ Constipation (up to 4 weeks)
⦁ Cough worsening with brown phlegm for a few weeks to 2 months
⦁ Craving
⦁ Irritability, frustration, anger, impatience
⦁ Poor concentration
⦁ Depression (mild to severe)
⦁ Sleep difficulties
⦁ Anxiety

What can be done to help smokers?

The province of BC offers a smoking cessation program:

Jonathon Bricker recommends Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in his TedTalk The secret to self-control:

The Nicotine Addiction Evaluation assessment can help guide a personalized Quit Plan:

Find a 12-step smoking program in your area:

Self Management & Recovery Training (SMART) meetings (an alternative to 12-step):

Canada Cancer Society:

And us non-smokers? We can support loved ones through their quitting process by holding genuine and compassionate space for them. (for more on this see:


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