Poppy Gibson
UHN provided the support Poppy Gibson needed to quit smoking for good. (Photo: UHN)

Poppy Gibson credits our cold Canadian winters with providing the extra push she needed to stop smoking.

When UHN became smoke-free in the summer of 2016, Poppy, housekeeper at Toronto Rehab's Bickle Centre, immediately thought about how unpleasant her breaks were about to become.

"I couldn't picture myself walking all the way out to the street, in minus-30-degree weather," says the 43 year-old, who had been smoking since she was 19.

"I wanted to be able to stay inside without worrying about having a nicotine fit."

Always one to go for the gusto, she decided it was time to quit for good. And thanks to the smoking cessation programs UHN was widely promoting, help was right in front of her eyes.

"I spotted a poster in the lobby of Bickle that listed a number of services in and around our hospitals," Poppy says. "One of them was the Nicotine Dependence Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and that's the one I decided to go with."

​By 2018, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act will prohibit smoking across all areas of Ontario hospitals. UHN chose to accelerate becoming smoke-free ahead of the legislative changes to support one of the organization's primary values – safety.

"We realized that it was contradictory to create an environment where people would engage in something that we know is harmful to everyone's health," says Jeanette MacLean, Director of Safety and Occupational Hygiene.

"We decided that we would put the processes in place to support staff who decide to quit as we made our environment smoke-free."

As an active member of the Tobacco Control Area Network, which provides a forum and on-the-ground support for those working in tobacco control, UHN's smoke-free committee is able to keep a finger on the pulse of services available across the GTA, and then bring those resources back to UHN.

"We know not all of our employees are going to reach out to the services we provide at UHN," Jeanette says.  "We want to make sure they're at least aware of what's available to them in the community and through other organizations."

During her six-month journey at CAMH's clinic, Poppy was put under the care of a physician, was armed with free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) in the form of lozenges and patches and was supported through monthly counseling.

Poppy says these services were critical to her success.

"I've tried quitting, cold-turkey, in the past. But smoking aids can be expensive and I hadn't yet learned the coping tools I needed to stay on track."

"I would either give in to the withdrawals or let stress trigger my cravings."

Today, more than one year after she first laid eyes on that poster in the Bickle lobby, Poppy feels an inner strength and sense of freedom she has never known before.

"I'm no longer a slave to my cigarettes," she says. "I know the occasional craving will hit me, but I also know I can work through it and approach it as a passing feeling."

Ready to quit for good? Learn more about the smoking cessation services and resources available at UHN hospitals and in the community. 

Dr. John Granton and Dr. Meredith Giuliani, UHN’s Smoking Cessation Steering Committee Chairs, sat down with UHN News to answer frequently asked questions about the smoke-free initiative and smoking cessation resources. (Video: UHN)
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