Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I.: 'It's never too late to quit'

The Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. division, is highlighting its resources for quitting smoking for National Non-Smoking week.

Smoking rates higher on P.E.I. compared to the rest of the country

Julia Pike is the special projects officer for the Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. division. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC News)

The Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. division, is reminding people to never quit quitting for National Non-Smoking Week.  

Julia Pike, special projects officer for the division says she understands it's not easy to quit smoking.

"It's a really tough addiction, so the idea is ... if you give it a try and it doesn't work, try again," she said.

"We're really encouraging people to think about it from that way. Don't give up on yourself if you have a lapse, as we call it. We've learned that the more people try, the easier it is for them [to succeed]," said Pike.  

Smoking rates higher on P.E.I. 

The statistics for the Island are higher than in the rest of the country, with 25 per cent of Islanders between the ages of 24-44 smoking, compared to the national average of 18 per cent.

In the younger demographic, ages 20-24, the numbers are at 20 per cent, still higher than the national average.

"Unfortunately, young people are still picking up smoking," said Pike.  

"It's a concern because the younger you pick up smoking, the higher your risk of a premature death from smoking. Tobacco is killing so many Canadians. It kills 37,000 Canadians a year," she said.

Lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer death on P.E.I. said Pike. "Quite frankly we're losing too many people to tobacco." 

Never too late to quit

The society is also stressing that it's never too late to quit. 

"The minute you stop smoking your body begins to repair itself. So within the first hour, tobacco will start to leave your system," said Pike. "

Within the first week, oxygen and circulation levels increase. Within 10 years of quitting, the risk of heart disease is cut in half. Within 15 years, life expectancy is that of a non-smoker, said Pike.    

Mary-Helen McLeese, 49, once smoked a pack a day. After quitting, she says she won a provincial triathlon title. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC News )

Mary-Helen McLeese, 49, knows how quickly you can bounce back after quitting. She started smoking at the age of 14 and at one point smoked a pack a day.

"It was really surprising how quickly cigarettes got a hold of me. I was very addicted very, very quickly," said McLeese. 

McLeese says she was an athletic kid, but that stopped after she started smoking.

"As soon as I actually became a smoker , I really felt that I was a sham. I was an unhealthy person, 'why am I doing all these, you know, these very athletic things,' so I really stopped."

But within just a few years of quitting in her late twenties, McLeese says she won a provincial triathlon title. 

Employers helping workers quit 

The Murphy's Hospitality Group is the first company participating in the Society's Quit and Win Challenge, an initiative funded by the Department of Health and Wellness. The program is free and offers businesses and organizations customized support and resources to assist their staff in quitting smoking.

Ben Murphy of Murphy's Hospitality says the health of his staff has a direct link to the health of the business.

"When we heard about the Canadian Cancer Society's program we knew we wanted to get involved. We are hopeful that through this initiative we can encourage our staff to live healthier lives," said Murphy.

First-time quitter and Murphy's Hospitality employee Kelley Gillis says, "I decided to take the challenge. I've never tried quitting before, but I feel I have nothing to lose."

If you're looking for help to quit smoking, contact the Smokers' Helpline at 1 877-513-5333 or go to


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