March 14, 2006
Media Release

The truth about quitting smoking and gaining weight

NEWMARKET - York Region Health Services reminds residents that there has never been a better time to quit smoking and encourages current tobacco users to register for the provincial Driven to Quit Challenge.  The Driven to Quit Challenge is a free, health promotion campaign aimed to encourage and support smokers to quit for the month of April.  Incentive prizes, such as a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid, valued at over $31,000, or one of seven Sony 32" Widescreen LCD HDTVs, valued at over $1,700, can be won.
There are a number of considerations a smoker contemplates when deciding to quit.   Weight gain is a common concern.  But not all smokers gain weight when they quit smoking and even if you gain the average 5-7 extra pounds,  the health benefits of quitting far out number the health risks associated with smoking tobacco products.  According to Health Canada, the adverse health effects of smoking or being subjected to second-hand smoke from a package of cigarettes a day is equivalent to carrying 60 or more extra pounds of body weight.
After quitting smoking additional weight gain can be attributed to a number of factors.  Food smells and tastes are often enhanced and may entice one to eat more food, more often.  Craving nicotine is a common symptom among people in the beginning stages of their quest to quit smoking.  This can cause feelings of agitation or restlessness. People often turn to food to curb these feelings of restlessness.  Nicotine is an artificial metabolism booster and upon quitting the metabolism slows down, making it easier to gain weight. However, there are many simple things you can do to help manage weight gain after quitting smoking. 
Eat regular healthy meals and snacks throughout the day
Include a variety of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lower-fat milk products, leaner meats and meat alternatives into your diet.  Try not to skip meals because it may cause you to crave nicotine or overeat later in the day.  Keep your refrigerator at home and work stocked with healthy snacks like vegetables, fresh fruit and fat-free yogurt.  Other healthy snacks include low-fat whole grain crackers, low-fat granola bars, low-fat popcorn, trail mix and dried fruit.
Watch your fluids
Consuming 6-8 glasses of fluid each day will help to flush the nicotine out of your system.  Water is the best option but low sodium vegetable juice, 100% fruit juice, low-fat milk and soups are good alternatives.  When you are trying to quit smoking it is a good idea to stay away from beverages containing caffeine or alcohol.  Caffeine may enhance your feelings of restlessness and alcohol can trigger a nicotine craving.
Increase your physical activity
Increasing your exercise amount to 30 minutes a day 2-3 weeks before you stop smoking and continuing to do so during this lifestyle change will help manage unwanted weight gain.  Starting to increase exercise before you quit smoking will create a routine and help you stay focused on one task at a time. 
Smoking prevalence in Ontario has declined in all age groups over the past two decades, to a provincial average of 20%.  Approximately 34% of smokers in Canada are contemplating quitting.  Although it takes on average 3.2 attempts to successfully quit smoking, every attempt is a step towards a healthier future.

If you are interested in quitting, below are some additional resources available to help you accomplish your goal:
 Register for the Driven to Quit Challenge at 
 Call the Smokers Helpline, toll free at 1-877-513-5333
 Call Health Connection for a list of Community Quit Smoking clinics and support groups in York Region.
For more information on this or other health-related questions, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, York Region Health Services
905-830-4444 Ext. 4016 or after-hours pager (905) 830-3302

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