Campus initiative sets out to help students quit smoking

Leave the Pack Behind is an organization dedicated to helping students who want to quit smoking reach their goals, and their currently running “wouldurather” contest is designed to further support those students by using incentives and prizes.

The organization was created at Brock, but has since spread throughout all of Ontario. The program was started in 2000 and was designed by Brock Community Health Sciences Professor Kelli-an Lawrance and Brock Student Health Services Director Melodie Shick-Porter, with the goal of helping to provide support and education related to smoking cessation.

One of the primary values of the organization is that they want to help students get the results that they want by helping them quit at their own pace. Rather than pressuring students to quit smoking or trying to convince people to quit (as some advocacy groups may do), the organization is focused on helping students who know they want to quit or cut back to create their own goals based on their desires and needs.

“We want to provide a supportive space for students who want to cut back or quit at their own pace,” said Isabella Churchill, the Campus Program Coordinator for Leave the Pack Behind at Brock. “We are a student-based team, and we are focused on helping people when they are ready.”

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This commitment to helping students reach their own goals is reflected in the current contest. This contest, running from Jan. 25 to March 6, encourages students to monitor their smoking behaviour for six weeks for the chance to win prizes. Instead of only offering prizes to those who completely quit smoking, the contest has four separate categories to meet the needs of four distinct groups of people.

The four categories are “quit for good,” for smokers who pledge to quit smoking entirely within the six weeks, “keep the count” for those who want to reduce their smoking in half, “party without the smoke” for smokers who only want to cut out smoking when drinking alcohol, and “don’t start and win” for ex-smokers and non-smokers who want to stay smoke-free. Contestants who stay dedicated to their goal throughout the six weeks are eligible to win cash prizes, with the largest prize being $2500.

Churchill said that the contest, which has been running for several years, has seen success in the past. The program follows up with contestants three months after the contest ends, and these follow-ups found that 19.8 per cent of students (or one in five) in the Quit for Good category were able to sustain abstinence after the contest ended. Interestingly, 12.9 per cent of the “keep the count” students (who do not commit to quitting, but only to reducing their smoking) had completely quit by this three-month mark. Considering the challenge and struggles associated with smoking cessation, a one in five success rate is comparatively high.

Churchill emphasized that Leave the Pack Behind is based off of research, and largely follows theories related to human development and stages of change.

Leave the Pack Behind helps students quit smoking/ Taylor Wallace

Leave the Pack Behind helps students quit smoking/ Taylor Wallace

“Everyone’s at a different place or stage,” said Churchill. “Depending on where they are in their stages of change, we can provide appropriate support and techniques for them.”

In addition to this contest, the program also offers counseling, consultation with health professionals, some free nicotine replacement therapy (subject to availability) and “quit kits” designed to help students quit smoking.

They are also currently running a program called Quit Run Chill, focused on helping students combine healthy physical activity and stress management techniques with smoking cessation. The website continues to emphasize the program’s core value that “It’s entirely up to you whether, when, and how to quit.” They are also running a program called “Don’t Cave to the Crave,” which is focused around providing healthy alternatives to smoking such as healthy snacks and activities.

For more information about Leave the Pack Behind and its services and contests, see leavethepackbehind.org

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