‘Leave the Pack Behind’


By: Christina Ciddio

At 360 hours into the new year, exactly 1,088 Canadians have died due to complications caused by smoking. That is three deaths every hour. If we continue on like this for the next 365 days, 26,295 lives will be lost in Canada alone. To coincide with National Non-Smoking Week, running from January 17 to 23, the youth-based anti-smoking campaign Leave the Pack Behind (LTPB) has organized a “would you rather…” contest. Participants quit smoking or stay smoke-free in the hopes of winning prizes including free tuition, iPods, and gift cards.

Funded by the Ministry of Health, Leave the Pack Behind began in 2000 as a program to control tobacco consumption among young adults in Ontario’s post-secondary institutions. A research-based cessation program, it works through campus health clinics and peer groups. Fifty-one universities and colleges are involved, reaching over 540,000 students.

The campus clinics campaign year-round to provide students with the information and resources they need to quit. St. George students can get information and Quit Kits at the Koffler Centre, where the LTPB Campus Coordinator is Lindsay Vanstone, a fourth-year Physiology and Health Care Ethics student. “I want to help students develop and maintain healthy lifestyles,” she says.

Lindsay Taylor, LTPB Assistant Manager of Communications, believes that the student-centred program is what “causes them to be receptive to it. Students will often come up and tell us how happy they are that the program exists on campus, because they will know there is somewhere to go if they want information about tobacco and how to quit.”

Statistics show that 64 percent of smokers want to quit. Using tactics like LTPB’s Smoke/Quit booklets can reduce smoking rates by 15 percent, compared to an unaided 5 percent. Taylor says LTPB’s main goal is to reduce the prevalence of smoking among Ontario’s young adults, who constitute 27 percent of active smokers. “The odds of quitting are five times higher for smokers who sign up for the LTPB contest compared to those who go it alone,”she says.

When this reporter polled a few U of T students, however, most of them seemed skeptical.

“The program is a good starting point, but it’s not the most useful tool,” says Katie Pennie, a first-year student who has been a casual smoker for four years. “It’s not targeting any reasons why someone starts smoking in the first place.”

Pennie believes that teaching students how to cope with stress and school issues should be more of a focus to stop people from smoking. As long as there is stress, people will smoke. She remains skeptical that she will kick the habit anytime soon.

This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/news/leave-the-pack-behind/.