For many people, quitting smoking can be one of the biggest challenges to overcome. It is a challenge that is often made easier with the support and encouragement of others.

Often, the act of sharing a personal goal, like quitting smoking, with an attentive ear, getting the right resources and knowing that someone supports you and will follow up to encourage you along your journey are what you need to begin leading a healthier lifestyle.

That’s the idea behind the défi “Qui Cesse Gagne!” (Biggest Quitter Challenge), which took place on January 29, 2015, and invited all residents in the Acadian Peninsula to commit to a healthier smoke-free lifestyle.

An initiative launched a few years ago by the Acadian Peninsula’s Anti-Tobacco Coalition, the challenge begins with a live broadcast on the community radio station, CKRO, where experts discuss the dangers of smoking and offer advice on smoking cessation.

“We invite experts in the field – a pharmacist to talk to our audience about smoking cessation aids, a doctor to talk about the dangers of smoking on one’s health, a dietician to give advice on maintaining a healthy diet when you stop smoking, a social worker to speak about withdrawal symptoms and how to manage them, and, of course, ex-smokers who can tell their story and inspire other people to quit,” explains Brigitte Ouellette, a member of the Acadian Peninsula’s Anti-Tobacco Coalition. “By broadcasting on community radio, we’re able to reach people where they are, in their homes or at work, all over the Acadian Peninsula.”

In addition to providing information and access to practical resources, the défi “Qui Cesse Gagne!” is so named because the audience is invited to take action and call in to the show to make a personal commitment towards a healthier tobacco-free lifestyle. When someone calls to declare their goal of quitting or reducing their cigarette consumption, they speak in private to telephone operators who are there to listen, answer questions and offer support.

“All goals are good. For example, there are people who call us to say they will try to stop smoking for at least 3 months. There are others who make the commitment not to smoke in their house or in their car. There are others who want to stop for good, and ex-smokers often call us to renew their commitment to continue living tobacco-free. Non smokers can also participate by declaring that they will remain smoke-free. For example, we receive phone calls from people telling us they have never smoked and that they will continue to maintain and promote healthy smoke-free environments.”

“By listening to the person’s story and asking the right questions, we are able to send him/her a personalized kit after the fact to help him/her along his/her journey. Each person who makes a commitment receives a kit, and we include resources tailored to his or her needs. For example, we might include tips on how to reduce stress for someone who said that he/she feels very stressed right now and not sure he/she will be able to succeed, or tips on maintaining a healthy diet and exercise for those who confess to being afraid to gain weight if they quit smoking. »

Each kit also includes a certificate documenting the participant’s smoke-free commitment, as well as a small promotional item. “One year, we gave out piggy banks to allow people to put in the money they weren’t spending anymore on cigarettes. It was a good way to motivate them – they would be able to reward themselves when they reached their goal.”

Now, more than six months later, the Acadian Peninsula Anti-Tobacco Coalition is doing some follow-up phone calls with participants to see if they have honoured their commitments. For those who have not, the call represents an opportunity to offer words of encouragement and start over.

“The challenge, the live show and the fact that people can call from the comfort of their home and talk with us creates a very safe environment for people to open up and feel supported. I get chills, for example, when I think of one of our former participants, a lady who had pledged to quit smoking. When I followed up with her, I learned she had achieved her goal. I asked her if she would be willing to share her story next year on the radio. She told me she did not want to talk about it publicly because her children did not even know that she had been a smoker! Smoking was a bad habit that she was ashamed of and tried to hide, but in doing so, she was not getting the help and support she needed to quit. It is thanks to the défi “Qui Cesse Gagne!” that she was finally able to feel safe and supported in asking for help, simply by listening to us on the radio, feeling inspired by others, and talking to our experts.”

The Acadian Peninsula’s Anti-Tobacco Coalition is very satisfied with the success of this initiative. For the 2015 edition, 122 people called and pledged their commitment to a healhier smoke-free lifestyle. Among these, seven were current smokers who gave themselves the challenge to quit smoking and the rest were ex-smokers and non-smokers who committed to remaining tobacco-free or keeping their environments, like their house, car and work, tobacco-free. “The telephone follow-up is a very important aspect that contributes to this project’s success”, says Brigitte. “When we tell people that we will follow up to see if they have achieved their goal, it motivates them a little bit more. Their commitment becomes a little bit more important, because they do not want to disappoint us!”

Want to learn more about the défi “Qui Cesse Gagne!”? Contact one of the Acadian Peninsula’s Anti-Tobacco members below.

Brigitte Ouellette –
Marie-Josée Roussel –

Photos used with permission from the défi Qui cesse gagne.

Published in July 2015

By Nathalie Landry – NBATC Communications Coordinator