Proud to be smoke free

20 January 2013

Charlottetown, PE -


On a Tuesday afternoon last August, Andrew Sprague smoked his last cigarette and hasn’t had a puff of tobacco since.   That’s an accomplishment the 37-year-old Charlottetown man who smoked heavily since his mid-teens is quite proud of.  

“I was determined to get out of the trap I had fallen into,” says Sprague.  “I was sick and tired of smoking, of being out of breath, of having a foul taste in my mouth.   This time, I was determined to quit and determined to never again do something that makes me feel so awful.”

Sprague is not alone in his addiction to tobacco. Close to 20 percent of Islanders smoke, one of the highest rates in the country, according to the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey.  The rate is even higher among 20 to 24 year olds with 30 percent of that age group smoking regularly. 

“Islanders are concerned about the high rates of cancer in this province.  Stopping smoking is the most significant thing we can do to change this,” says Lori Barker, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. Division.  The Society reports that smoking causes about 30 percent of all cancer deaths and approximately 85 percent of lung cancer deaths in Canada.

“I understand that breaking this addiction can be extremely challenging for some people, but they don’t have to face the battle alone,” says Barker.  “There are many supports available through your family doctor, local pharmacist, P.E.I. Addiction Services, or by contacting Smokers’ Helpline.”

The Canadian Cancer Society provides a free support service on-line at www.smokershelpline.ca or people can receive personal counselling by calling 1-877-513-5333.

Sprague was strongly motivated to quit smoking.  “We wanted to start a family, says Sprague.  “The thought of holding a baby after having a cigarette made me feel badly about myself. There was no way I wanted a child to see me smoking or to be exposed to second-hand smoke.”  

Sprague found a publication called Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking, a helpful resource.  “That book completely changed my perspective on quitting and withdrawal. It gave me the ammunition I needed,” says Sprague. 

This week, January 20 – 26th, is named National Non-Smoking Week by The Canadian Council for Tobacco Control. It designates a week in mid-January to raise awareness of the benefits of not smoking and to encourage people to quit. 

Weedless Wednesday may motivate some people to cut down or eliminate smoking and Barker supports that initiative.  But she hopes this week encourages smokers to think about their personal motivation to quit.  “When you are ready to take that step, we can help you create a plan that will help you succeed,” she says. 

Barker says Smokers’ Helpline works with individuals on ways to deal with cravings and how to cope in situations where they used to smoke.   

Sprague admits he was initially nervous about being in those situations but doesn’t recommend avoiding them.  “I was hesitant to play a round of golf because, to me, 18-holes meant a whole pack of cigarettes. But if I avoided golf I’d be resentful so I quickly got over that hump and I no longer fear situations where I would normally smoke.”    

With great enthusiasm Sprague is now keen to share the benefits of being tobacco-free.   “I feel better, I smell better, my teeth are whiter, my hands are cleaner, food tastes better, and I’m saving about $100 a week. I’m just embarrassed about how much I exposed others to the smell of cigarettes because now I’m acutely aware of the smell of other smokers.”  

The ultimate reward for Sprague is that he and his wife Jinny will soon be a parents.  He is delighted to be doing that smoke-free.

The Canadian Cancer Society encourages people to consider that quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do for your health.  

For 75 years the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life.   We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer.   From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive.    When you want to know more about  cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Lori Barker

Executive Director

Phone: 902-566-4007