The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC launches Quebec’s first stop smoking program specifically for teenagers

On World No Tobacco Day earlier this year, The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) launched Quebec’s first Smoking Cessation Motivational Program developed specifically for teenagers with medical conditions. This pilot project aims to encourage teens to butt out. The initial target audience is teen smokers at the highest risk of compromising their health – teens with asthma, pregnant teenagers and teenage mums.

“There are numerous programs to encourage kids not to start smoking, but there is very little available to specifically help teens stop smoking,” says Dr. Francine Ducharme, Director of The Children’s Asthma Centre Research Program. “You know, it’s easy for a physician to say ‘stop smoking’, but much harder for a smoker to heed this advice. Clearly the first step is to get the teenager motivated to butt out. The Children’s program offers patients who smoke personalized encouragement, support and assistance when they come for their regular medical appointments – there is no extra visit.”

During their monthly visits to the hospital, pregnant teenagers will have access to the Smoking Cessation Motivational Program, which becomes part of their pregnancy care. Once the baby is born, the program continues to ensure both mom and baby remain smoke free. As part of their medical visits, asthmatic teens are also offered professional assistance to motivate them to stop smoking and once they choose to butt out they can decide to do it alone, with friends, with the help of The Children’s Smoking Cessation and Substance Abuse Clinic or with the help of one of the 11 Centres d’Abandon du Tabac in the greater Montreal area.

Statistics indicate about 25% of Quebec teenagers smoke. This number rises to an alarming 50% of pregnant teenagers or teenage mums. Asthmatic and pregnant teenagers are also more likely to smoke heavily and to start smoking earlier than other teenagers. Babies of smoking mothers have a lower birth weight, have smaller lungs, and are more prone to asthma. Asthmatic teenagers who smoke have poorer day-to-day control of their asthma and have more asthma attacks.

“Studies show when motivated smokers follow a cessation program their chances of being smoke free after 12 months increases from 5% to 20%,” says Dr. Mark Zoccolillo, a pediatric psychiatrist at The Children’s. “The Children’s is also offering an on-site smoking cessation program because we know when teenagers are referred elsewhere, for example a CLSC, they are less likely to bother. Another advantage, The Children’s is offering individual counseling sessions which teens prefer over group sessions.”

Over the next year, The Children’s will track the results of its program. If it proves successful, Dr. Ducharme hopes that many of Quebec’s 90 Centres d’enseignement sur l’asthme et la Maladie Pulmonaire Obstructive Chronic (MPOC) to consider adopting The Children’s approach in a bid to encourage their patients suffering from asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to stop smoking.

The Children’s Smoking Cessation Motivation Program was funded by The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation from unrestricted donations from Pfizer Canada and private donors.

The Montreal Children’s Hospital is the pediatric teaching hospital of the McGill University Health Centre.