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Contest offers young people cash to quit smoking

By Stephanie Clue [1] 

BELLEVILLE – Smoking cigarettes or winning money: what would you rather do?

The Hastings and Prince Edward Health Unit [2] is teaming up with provincial organization Leave the Pack Behind [3] to help young adult smokers make that choice.

Promotional poster advertising the wouldurahter contest to help young adults quit smoking. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News [4]

Promotional posters advertising the wouldurahter contest to help young adults quit smoking. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News

This week marks the beginning of National Non-Smoking Week [5], and Leave the Pack Behind [3] is asking young smokers to take part in its contest called wouldurather [6]. It’s aimed at motivating young adults to quit smoking, with a grand prize of $2,500 for two contestants who quit for good.

For smokers who are not ready to quit outright, the contest offers prizes in three other categories: cutting the amount you smoke in half; quitting social smoking [7]; and, for non-smokers, continuing not to smoke. Contestants will receive motivational emails for the duration of the contest to help them succeed.

The contest is open to Ontario residents between the ages of 18 and 29, or anyone enrolled in a publicly funded post-secondary institution regardless of age. The contest begins this coming Monday and runs for six weeks.

“The money is a good incentive for young adults who normally wouldn’t reach out for help in quitting,” said David Patterson, who works at the local health unit as a promoter for the tobacco program.

The health unit offers weekly clinics at its Trenton, Bancroft and Belleville locations to help people quit smoking.

“This is a drop-in, no-appointment-necessary kind of clinic where smokers can come and get patches, gum or lozenges at either a reduced cost or for free – all containing nicotine, so it’s a nicotine-replacement program,” said Patterson.

The have been running for several years and have shown relatively high success rates, Patterson said. But they have not been well-attended by young people. The health unit is working to change that, he said.

“In total we show about a 30-per-cent success rate, which doesn’t seem that high. But quitting smoking is very tough, and it’s actually a pretty high success rate. Almost one out of three people seem to be quitting after a six-month followup.”

The 2014 Canadian Community Health Survey [8] found that the smoking rate for adults aged 20 to 34 in Hastings and Prince Edward counties was 52.2 per cent, compared to the provincial rate of 22.3 per cent. One reason smoking rates are so high in this area, Patterson said, is the proximity of places where young adults can get cheap cigarettes.

Kyle Verner, a student at Loyalist College, has been smoking for the past 10 years. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News. [9]

Kyle Verner, a student at Loyalist College, has been smoking for the past 10 years. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News

Kyle Verner, a Business Sales and Marketing [10] student at Loyalist College [11], says that he has been smoking for 10 years.

“As bad as it sounds, I stole a smoke from my parents because they both smoke,” said Verner.

He has been thinking about quitting for the last two years, he said, but his attempts have been unsuccessful. He wants to quit mainly for financial and health reasons, he added.

“A pack is $10.65, and I spend about 40 bucks a week on cigarettes.”

Will he participate in the stop-smoking content?

“Yes and no. Because smoking is an outlet to relieve stress, and the amount of stress that would build up around trying to quit might not be worth the $2,500.”

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