Three days before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Don Broatch had just quit smoking entirely. With support from the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Smoking Cessation Clinic, he has maintained this lifestyle change through all the uncertainty and change of this past year.
Don was 16 years old when he began smoking regularly. He recalls taking his first drag of a cigarette when he was just 13 years old, a win for the tobacco industry as 85 per cent of users become addicted before they are of legal age to purchase tobacco. In the words of Myron E. Johnston, a Philip Morris researcher, “today's teenager is tomorrow's potential regular customer."
Don stopped smoking in 2004 after participating in a University of British Columbia (UBC) research study on Zyban. However, he relapsed after an acting gig required him to dangle a cigar out of his mouth every time he was on stage.
In 2019, Don signed up for another local study, the BC Lung Health Check Study. The study involves five, low-dose CT scans to detect early lung cancer. After his first CT scan, Don was inspired again to address his tobacco use – primarily for his health.
In February 2020, Don called up the VGH Smoking Cessation Clinic and booked an appointment with Dr. Milan Khara. He says the best part of the program was that Dr. Khara was a great listener, and that he knew he was getting the support and advice he needed to overcome his nicotine addiction. In addition to providing one-to-one counselling and helping Don create a personalized quit plan, Dr. Khara prescribed Champix for Don.
And on March 8, 2020, three days before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, Don quit smoking.
Don still gets intense cravings out of nowhere, but finds chewing candy (in moderation), deep breathing, and refocusing his mind helps him manage. His advice to health-care providers is to “be supportive and kind, accept your clients and don't pressure them." He says using pressure to help someone stop smoking is akin to telling someone who is angry to just relax – it's not helpful. When asked what advice he would give to smokers who are contemplating quitting Don says, “Don't be afraid to get help."
*Stay tuned in the coming weeks for another successful quit story of a VCH staff member.
VGH Smoking Cessation Clinic
For help to stop or reduce the use of vapour products and/or tobacco products
Get personalized counselling support and education from a doctor or nurse who specializes in addictions
Learn about products to help you stop vaping or smoking
Appointments are done by phone or video (due to pandemic)
Available by self-referral
To book an appointment: Call 604-875-4800 (press “2") or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Offers free 24-hour support by phone and online to quit or reduce tobacco and vapour product use
Interact with others, track your progress and connect instantly with expert Quit Coaches
Phone 1-877-455-2233 or text 654321
PharmaCare: BC Smoking Cessation Program
Provides nicotine replacement therapy (e.g. nicotine patch, gum or lozenge) free to BC residents with a BC Care Card or BC Services Card
Speak to your local pharmacist for professional advice and to obtain a suitable product for your situation.
Offers one-stop shop for youth (ages 12 to 24 years)
Available in various communities of care in Vancouver Coastal Health region
Provides support for substance use support (including tobacco and vaping)