Smoke free zone
National Non-Smoking Week has been observed for nearly 40 years. Smoking and second-hand smoke are the leading cause of preventable illness, disability and premature death in Canada, and the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. (Photo: Hau Dinh)

It's National Non-Smoking Week – one of the longest-running events in Canada's ongoing public health education efforts.

With many people also focusing on having a fresh start to the New Year, this may be a time when smokers resolve to quit.

To back smoking cessation efforts, the anesthesia and surgery teams at UHN have developed supports for patients who are smokers and preparing to undergo surgery.

Smoking and surgery

Although the long-term health consequences of smoking are well known, surgical patients who smoke may not realize they put themselves at increased risk for serious surgical complications ranging from wound infections to respiratory problems – and even death.

"Many studies show that to improve recovery after surgery and overall health, patients should quit as soon as possible before surgery, and abstain from smoking as long as possible after surgery," says Dr. Jean Wong, an anesthesiologist at Toronto Western Hospital.

"As well, this perioperative time is a 'teachable moment' for health care professionals to help patients quit smoking."

Dr. John Granton and Dr. Meredith Giuliani, UHN’s Smoking Cessation Steering Committee Chairs, sat down with UHN News to dispel a few myths about smoking and smoking cessation. (Video: UHN)
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On July 1, 2016, all of UHN's sites became smoke-free grounds. This means the smoking of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes on UHN-owned grounds is prohibited.

To support patients and staff who are interested in quitting, there are a variety of resources available, including for smokers who are undergoing surgery.

A team led by Dr. Wong and Elke Ruthig, Toronto General Hospital Patient and Caregiver Education, has developed a patient e-learning education program tailored specifically for surgical patients. The module provides information on the health benefits of quitting and how it helps with recovery after surgery.

"Quitting is a very difficult thing to do on your own," says Elke. "Patients and their caregivers are more successful when they are informed and active partners in their care and have the support they need before, during, and after surgery."

Surgical patients can reach out to the UHN outpatient pharmacies and the health care team in the UHN preadmission clinics for support with trying to quit smoking.

Smokers who are undergoing surgery can be directed here for more information and resources.


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As part of the 9th Annual Ottawa Conference – State of the Art Clinical Approaches to Smoking Cessation – UHN’s Smoking Cessation Committee submitted an abstract detailing the organization’s approach to transitioning to smoke-free grounds. The conference, which runs Jan. 20 and 21, provides the opportunity to hear from smoking cessation experts, engage with other health professionals to exchange ideas, and learn of current and emerging concepts.

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