In August, the New Brunswick Anti-Tobacco Coalition found out about Gabriella Simon through Twitter, by searching for a new success story to feature this fall.

“I forgot to say it’s been one year since I quit smoking cigarettes!” she wrote in a tweet.

Simon, 20, is from the Burnt Church First Nation, in northeastern New Brunswick.

Out of her more than 40,700 tweets, this one will stand out. No wonder it gained retweets and likes from her followers, who can now expect a similar update on every August 5th from now on.

The date has a significant meaning for Simon. It represents a major accomplishment in her journey towards a smoke-free lifestyle.

“I started smoking when I was 15. I thought it looked cool,” she recalls.

Simon smoked for five years, but eventually the negative health effects of cigarettes caught up with her in subtle ways, which made her question her choice to smoke.

“I felt sick to my stomach,” she explains.

While she unsuccessfully tried to quit in the past, she says she didn’t try hard enough to put cigarettes behind her for good.

“I ended up quitting cold turkey on August 5th, 2015. It was not even that hard.”

The milestones kept coming up one after the other; the first week, the first month then half a year smoke-free. A year later, she celebrated her first year smoke-free by having dinner with her family.

“This anniversary feels amazing. I don’t have bad breath from smoking and I haven’t been coughing like I used to when I did smoke.”

For Simon, quitting smoking is also a way to be a role model for herself, her family and her community.

“Smoking can destroy lives.”

Today, she has one piece of advice for people who want to quit: keep trying and don’t give up.

“I want to tell teenagers that smoking isn’t cool. My mom kept telling me to quit while I could when she found out I had started smoking. Don’t start smoking because once you start, you become addicted and it’s hard to quit. It took me five years.”

Her dedication is impressive; she knew starting to smoke again wouldn’t be the right choice even while she passed through a difficult time in her life.

“I wanted to smoke the night I was called to the hospital where my father was staying, on July 20th. They said he wouldn’t make it until tomorrow, so we went and it took us two hours to get there. He waited for us, and passed at 12:51 A.M. on July 21st. He had turned 50 on July 11. I wanted to smoke so badly, but I didn’t, because my dad was proud of me quitting.”

Simon is a prolific social media user. She says relying on Twitter played a big role in her success. She brought up quitting as early as 2013, and then discussed her desire to quit and the different challenges she faced throughout the last year.

Although social media as a smoking cessation tool is relatively new, several social media based programs are showing promising results. For example, Health Canada’s Break It Off campaign.

Break It Off, a offers help through the form of a mobile app, but also challenges users to post a status on Facebook explaining that they’ve decided to move towards a smoke-free lifestyle.

While Simon did not use any of these programs, she says that Twitter was part of her success in staying smoke-free.

“Using Twitter keeps me busy, and I love communicating with friends. Being able to talk about quitting on social media did make a difference.”

Keep up the good work, Gabriella! We can’t wait to read and share your future milestones on Twitter.

Story used with permission from Gabriella Simon.

Published in November 2016

By Jean-Étienne Sheehy – NBATC Communications Coordinator