A unique local program is helping northern smokers overcome their addiction to tobacco. Northern Health’s Nicotine Intervention Counselling Centre
(NICC) program is intended to help bring down the region’s high smoking numbers… helping people quit through providing professional one-on-one counseling and support.
“We have the highest rates of smoking and exposure to second hand smoke in BC, and we need to change that,” said Alice Domes, NICC Program Coordinator.
“Over 30 per cent of Northern BC residents smoke, compared to the BC average of 20 per cent. But NICC is helping to make a difference in that number, and in the lives of northern British Columbians.”
NICC counselors include specially trained health professionals such as physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, and dental hygienists.
help clients develop a personalized quit plan, provide a starter pack of nicotine replacement therapy such as the patch or Zyban pill, and offer regular follow-ups with clients to help them stay away from tobacco in the long run.
The NICC program is free for participants. Individuals begin the program with an initial consultation visit to a NICC counselor. A follow-up appointment is then scheduled for the week after a client has quit smoking.
Telephone support is then typically provided over the course of a year during regular intervals – generally at one month, three months, six months and 12 months.
The NICC program is one that works, according to Chetwynd resident Donna Burns who has been cigarette-free for almost two years. After visiting Irene Stoyles, a Respiratory Therapist and NICC counselor at Chetwynd Hospital to test for breathing problems, Donna found the inspiration that she needed to quit smoking.
“I found the personalized support extremely helpful,” said Donna. “Irene was very knowledgeable and provided a lot of facts about how to become healthier taking small steps at a time. Her ongoing assistance enabled me to keep progressing with my efforts.”
A smoker for twenty years, Donna was given a harsh diagnosis for the future that further inspired her decision to quit. “I was told that if I didn’t stop smoking and become more healthy, that I could die before the age of 55.
Being 36 at the time, I didn’t want my life to end within 20 years.”
Diagnosed with asthma, Donna’s visits with Irene to test for improved lung capacity would be followed by discussions on how to break her smoking addiction. “The best thing that we did was to set a date for when I was going to officially quit, and then we worked towards reaching that goal and sticking to it.”
“Quitting smoking is really worth all the effort that it takes. I can breath more easily now and I can definitely feel how much healthier I am.”
Over 130 trained NICC counselors in more than 20 communities throughout Northern BC are available to provide support for those who are interested in pursuing a smoke-free lifestyle.
“NICC’s original plan was to train healthcare professionals to offer stop-smoking counseling to clients who they were already seeing for other health reasons,” said Domes. “But public interest in the program has really grown. So now many counselors are fitting appointment requests from the general public into their calendars as well, regardless if they have other health issues.”
For more information about accessing the NICC program, please contact your local health unit or health centre.
In the following communities, further NICC program information is available by contacting:
Prince Rupert: Doreen Bond at 250-624-2171 Prince George: Maggie Vukovic at 250-565-7344 Tumbler Ridge: Dawn Pouliot at 250-242-4262