No one’s happy with the state of the economy in Newfoundland & Labrador. But at least 1 in 5 of us can do something about it: quit smoking.

In 2006, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse determined that smokers cost our province $95,217,802 in healthcare resources.

That’s higher than the healthcare costs from alcohol abuse and illegal drug use combined. Yet we’ve all heard smokers complain about the “financial burden” of funding addictions programs, while filling their lungs with a (hypocritical) puff of smoke.

If citing stats from 2006 sounds out of date, it’s not. For the last 20 years, we’ve been hovering at a rate of 1 in 5 of us smoking. Recently released stats from the Canadian Tobacco and Drugs Survey state that our province has the highest rate of smoking in the country. Which not only clogs up those people’s lungs and hearts and arteries, but our healthcare budget as well.

Thanks to poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, heart disease is the leading cause of death in this province;  lung cancer is another leading cause of death here, and smoking is also linked with Type 2 diabetes — which plagues our province. So smoking exasperates our 3 big health flaws: it clogs your heart, kills your lungs, and paves the way for Type 2 Diabetes.

2013 data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information declares that our healthcare expenditure per capita was higher than all other provinces. There are thousands of acute care hospitalizations in our province, every year, directly attributable to smoking.

MUN’s New Smoking Cessation Program Booking Up Quickly 

MUN’s School of Pharmacy is looking to snuff those stats out. Its new quit-smoking program is unique from other quit smoking resources in NL. So if you’ve “tried it all,” but this is news to you, then you haven’t tried it all.

“Our program offers a combination of counselling and quit medication, as this has shown the best quit rates, and it complements other quit smoking services in the community,” said Dr. Leslie Phillips, researcher and professor at Memorial’s School of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine-Discipline of Psychiatry.

It is housed in the school’s Medication Therapy Services (MTS) Clinic, but open to the larger community in addition to students, staff, and faculty.

“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,” Dr. Phillips says. “There is no safe level of smoking. It’s the single most preventable cause of premature death and disease in the country.”

Currently the program is running as part of study funded by a grant from Memorial’s Teaching and Learning initiative, and utilizes pharmacy students and psychiatry residents working together in two-person teams to provide a smoking cessation service.

“We work with each smoker to develop an individualized quit plan that best suits their needs. Many factors have to be considered when customizing a plan. For example we consider a persons smoking history, current medical conditions and medications before deciding if a quit medication is appropriate to use and if so, which one is best for that individual,” she said

While the study is booking up quickly, extra clinics have been added and times are still available Tuesday and Thursday mornings. And that’s good news given we’re the country’s king of darts’n’draws. According to the NL Medical Association, if just 10% of the province’s smokers quit, they would save the provincial economy more than $594 million over their lifetimes .

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. ( / 777-7274).