It is national non-smoking week and many northerners are trying to drop the habit — including those who work in health care.

But breaking the culture of smoking among nurses and doctors doesn't happen in one week.

Nicotine replacement help

A health care worker in North Bay says the province could help people quit smoking by putting more funding into nicotine replacements.

The provincial government has announced it will spend $2 million to help people stay smoke-free after recovering from a stay in hospital.

The clinical co-ordinator of tobacco intervention at the North Bay Regional Health Centre said patients are twice as likely to quit if they use either a prescription medication or nicotine replacements to help them.

Sherry Cole said options like nicotine patches aren't always covered by health insurance plans.

"If you are a patient with a physician on a family health team, for example, they do have some ministry resources to provide nicotine replacement," she said. "It’s sort of available to some but not to others."

Cole said smokers receive care and advice while in hospital, but said she feels there needs to be more help available to smokers after they leave.

Just ask Danielle Brosseau, who has been a smoker as long as she's been a nurse. She had her first cigarette in nursing school.

"We used to all smoke during class," she said.

For 42 years, she's worked in public health, hospitals, jails and now at Canadian Blood Services in Sudbury.

Brosseau said, for decades, smoking was part of the job, because "if you didn't smoke you didn't get a break."

She has quit in the past but has since gone back to her four smokes a day. Brosseau said she plans to make another try in the coming weeks. Comments by others are part of her motivation to end the habit.

"People say, 'Well, gee, you're so into fitness and you smoke? And you're a nurse and you smoke?' So, it's really a slap," she said.

At Sudbury’s hospital, counselling and free nicotine replacement treatment has been offered to workers for the past year.

Cancer services vice-president Mark Hartman said 58 people have gone through the program — something that has also helped Health Sciences North’s budget.

"For the investment we make, we know that just reductions in sick time, can give us that return on investment," he said.

About 700 of the 4,000 workers at the Sudbury hospital are smokers, which is a lower percentage than the city it serves: it is estimated that about 25 per cent of Greater Sudburians smoke.