There’s smokin’ hot news across the land … as of July 1 (yes, Canada Day) UHN will become an entirely smoke-free environment. No one’s lit up inside UHN or any Ontario workplace for many years, but the new Smoke Free Ontario Act extends to outdoor grounds, parking garages and E-cigs too.  There’s some serious bite to the bark: smoking on hospital grounds could lead to a $5,000 fine for the smoker and a $300,000 fine for the hospital. That’s a lot of incentive!

Smoke free zone
Smoke free zone

Now that 9 meters from an entrance is not enough, it may be the best time ever to quit. As mentioned in our resolution-revolution series, most smokers, when nagged by their well-meaning loved ones, tell them to butt the hell out (pun intended). They don’t usually quit until they decide enough is enough and the time is right (or not as wrong). That’s the first step, and if you’ve taken it, bravo! I wish one of my relatives, Jean, had come to that conclusion. Even as she struggled with lung cancer, she puffed away to the bitter end. It’s hard to quit, we know.

I have the inside track on the subject, having practiced the evil habit from age 14 to 28. 14-year-old me was quite sure that I would never get addicted (14-year-old me was an idiot😉).  As tobacco smoke damaged my lungs with Benzene, Arsenic, Cadmium and about 4,000 other fun-filled chemicals, the tiny loose cellulose acetate fibres from the filter did too.

I used to think I wasn’t hurting anyone else but me. With each addictive drag, I tried to forget the air I polluted and the waste of all those cigarette butts. Strangely, some people think it’s OK to litter cigarette butts (a whopping 77% of a KAB survey). Here’s just a smattering of posters trying to turn that idea around:


With so many pocket ashtrays available, there’s no need to litter. The City of Nanaimo gave them away to help keep their streets clean, as did North Bay City Hall and Nipissing University.

Pocket Ashtrays City of Nanaimo Cigarette
The City of Nanaimo handed out pocket ashtrays to reduce cigarette litter. image credit CBC News

Beyond gunking up our waterways and soil, just producing cigarettes has a heavy environmental toll.  like 1 tree cut for every 300 cigarettes (that’s one tree for every one and a half cartons) plus pesticides, plus fuel, plus plus. Not to be blinded by numbers, but with 1.1 billion smokers worldwide smoking over 5 trillion times a year, that’s 5,000,000,000,000 cigarettes smoked and trashed every year. Yowza!

Let’s bring it down to the individual level. Say you smoke a pack/day. If you quit, you’ll prevent the pollution to your lungs, the air, land and water of 9,132 cigarettes every year. If you’re around 30 years old and you quit now, you’ll save yourself from smoking for about 5 decades (and might live even longer than that). 5 decades is 456,205 cigarettes. It’s also about $219,000 that you could spend on something good like a house (or a small condo in Toronto).

Luckily, there are a lot of supports out there to help quit. It may be hard, but you and everyone around you will breathe a little easier.