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Creating quitters

Student-led Smoking Cessation Program at School of Pharmacy

By Heidi Wicks

A new research project exploring student learning in an interprofessional, student and resident-led Smoking Cessation Program (SCP) in the School of Pharmacy’s Medication Therapy Services Clinic teaches smokers that sometimes it’s okay to be a quitter.

Dr. Leslie Phillips, co-principal investigator and associate dean of undergraduate studies, describes the project as “a qualitative study allowing pharmacy students and psychiatry residents to work together in two-person teams to provide a smoking cessation service to individuals who are either referred or self-referred to the SCP.”

Dr. Leslie Phillips (right) with Karen Brown. Dr. Phillips counselled Ms. Brown to quit smoking three years ago.
Dr. Leslie Phillips (right) with Karen Brown. Dr. Phillips counselled Ms. Brown to quit smoking three years ago.
Photo: Heidi Wicks

It’s a real-world teaching and learning experience and a valuable service to the Memorial University community, according to Dr. Noreen Golfman, provost and vice-president (academic).

“We are lucky to have this progressive service on campus, and I hope our faculty, staff and students will seek out more information on it if they’re considering quitting smoking,” said Dr. Golfman.

She also points out the Smoking Cessation Program is a resource for community members.

“We are a people’s university, we are very connected to our community, we always strive to find new ways to be relevant to our community, and I’m proud that this service is available from Memorial, to help the people of our province live healthier and happier lives.”

Public health impact/saving health-care dollars

 Newfoundland and Labrador continues to have one of the highest smoking rates in Canada.

Perhaps of more concern, the rate of smoking for individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions is not declining and one in every two individuals with a mental illness continues to smoke.

Dr. Phillips says mental health and smoking are linked.

“We know that quitting smoking not only prolongs life expectancy, it actually reduces anxiety and depression in the long run.” — Dr. Leslie Phillips

“Individuals with mental illness are far more likely to smoke and to smoke more heavily because nicotine releases a feel good chemical in the brain,” she said.

“Unfortunately, that means they are at higher risk of smoking-related health consequences, most notably premature death. We know that quitting smoking not only prolongs life expectancy, it actually reduces anxiety and depression in the long run.”

Numerous diseases

Other health consequences of smoking include stroke, heart disease, asthma, emphysema, cancer, sudden infant death syndrome and premature aging.

Smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death and disease in the country.

“There is no safe level of smoking.” — Dr. Leslie Phillips

“Forty per cent of cancers in the U.S. are now linked to tobacco use,” said Dr. Phillips.

“There is no safe level of smoking. Every 10 minutes two Canadian teenagers start smoking, one of them will lose their life because of it. Every 11 minutes a Canadian dies as a consequence of smoking.”

The quit journey

Memorial’s quit program is unique because it offers both counselling and quit medication — the combination that has shown the best success rates — and complements other quit smoking services in the community.

Dr. Phillips says the program facilitators work with each smoker to develop an individualized quit plan that best suits their needs. She says that many factors have to be considered when customizing a quit plan, such as an individual’s past experiences and preferences, their current medical conditions and medications and the availability of health insurance when recommending the best quit medication for an individual.

“Some of the quit medications can interfere with other medications a person may be taking, preventing those medications from working as well,” she said. “We also provide tips on how to manage triggers and nicotine withdrawal, ensure patients use their quit medications appropriately and  monitor their use for efficacy and tolerability.”

Most smokers do not quit for good on the first attempt. Dr. Phillips says this fact should not be a deterrent for those thinking of signing up.

“On average, smokers take between 5-7 attempts before they are successful. But every quit attempt brings them one step closer to quitting for life!”

Smokers can self-refer to the study by visiting the Smoking Cessation Program website and completing and faxing the referral form or by contacting Dr. Stephanie Chesser at 709-777-7274 or via email.  

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