The Journey to Tobacco Free
By Lilian Riad-Allen, Project Manager, Tobacco Free Initiative
I’ve always had a sense of adventure so not surprisingly, my favourite movie as a child was “The Wizard of Oz”. As an adult, I embarked on a journey of my own and that path has led to me CAMH.
I entered the world of smoking cessation and tobacco control as a member of the Smoking Treatment for Ontario Patients program. I’m proud to say, the STOP Program is presently celebrating a tremendous milestone – over 100,000 Ontario residents enrolled in smoking cessation, and still growing. Now I am leading the charge to go tobacco free at CAMH – the biggest professional challenge I have faced to date – and certainly one of the most rewarding.
In the same way that I have been on an incredible journey, CAMH is also walking down the path of change. In my conversations with staff, I encounter those who still remember the bad old days of rolling cigarettes for clients, indoor smoking rooms and even dispensing tobacco to reward good behaviour. Clearly major changes have happened at CAMH, and as each of these changes were made, there were obstacles, concerns and even fears. It took quite a bit of courage to begin addressing those issues even though they are difficult for most of us to imagine.
Every day we are learning more about the harms associated with tobacco use. Fifty years after the U.S. Surgeon General reported that smoking causes lung cancer, we are learning how tobacco is implicated in diseases like diabetes, erectile dysfunction, colorectal and livers cancers, and how it is robbing our patients of valuable years of life.
We’ve certainly come a long way but our journey isn’t over. In November 2013, CAMH launched the first phase of our Tobacco Free policy. This policy addresses tobacco use on our campus, serves to de-normalize tobacco use on hospital property and creates a mindful, recovery zone for those making changes to their smoking behaviours.
We’ve heard from both clients and staff how this change will help them. While they have told us it won’t be easy, they are not alone. This Weedless Wednesday, people across the nation may be feeling that same way. On this journey, we will need to keep reminding ourselves that this is a process and not an event, that lapses happen and even the smallest victories are worth celebrating. We all know someone that has or is struggling with their tobacco use, and even if we haven’t personally experienced it, we all know how difficult it is to make big life changes.
So let’s work to support one another. This Weedless Wednesday, let’s celebrate how far we’ve come and look forward to how far we still have to go. It certainly won’t be easy, but with a bit of courage, we can get there.