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The information presented here is taken from Health Canada’s Getting Smoke-Free information kit, available online

Cessation programs that work for women

Smoking cessation programs come in a variety of shapes and sizes - from intensive individual counselling and group programs to self-help initiatives, worksite programs, telephone support, community cessation contests and media programs.

Regardless of what format they use, programs that meet women’s needs effectively share a number of important characteristics.

Cessation programs that work for women...

  • are women centered: grounded in an understanding of women’s needs and recognize smoking as a response to women’s social, economic, cultural and personal experiences

  • are holistic: position smoking reduction/ cessation as one element of a comprehensive approach to women’s health and well-being

  • are flexible: encourage leaders and their clients to "mix and match" program components according to the particular needs and interest areas of different client groups

  • are designed by women: involve women -- including program providers and clients -- in their initial planning, set up and evaluation

  • are accessible: available to women free or at a low cost, provide child care services/facilities, are held in convenient locations at convenient times, and take into account a range of literacy levels

  • are non-judgmental: offer women information and support in their efforts to reduce or quit smoking in an atmosphere of mutual respect and empathy, without shame or blame

  • are not "all or nothing": acknowledge smoking reduction as an appropriate goal and recognize that most women who smoke will try to quit at least several times before they are successful

  • take into account the stages of change: recognize that women will need different kinds of support as they move through each change stage

  • offer positive lifestyle alternatives: provide tools for healthy living, including stress management, active living, healthy eating, and other self-care techniques

  • include family/partner/group support: acknowledge the importance of social support to women, and aim to increase understanding and support for their smoking cessation efforts among family and friends

  • include relapse support: offers guidance on how to anticipate, resist and manage smoking relapses on a long-term basis

A Practical Note...

If you’re a program provider working with women, this section is designed to give you some food for thought about the characteristics of a successful smoking reduction program. So whether you’re designing your own programs, trying to choose from among the various programs that are already out there, or looking into referral programs that best suit your clients’ needs, keep this checklist close at hand.

Women’s Organizations: Perfectly Placed to get the Word Out

Community-based women’s groups have a long history of being involved in issues of self-esteem and equality - issues that are not at the root of many of women’s health concerns, including smoking. Many use a holistic approach that stresses self-help and social action, and mirrors what we know about effective health promotion - that it is community-based, client-centered and empowers people to take responsibility for themselves.

Although most local women’s groups have not traditionally been involved in tobacco control programs, they are in a good position to promote smoking cessation/reduction among the women who are most at risk from smoking - including women who live on low incomes, women from ethnic and racial minorities, Aboriginal women, and women who are abused. By organizing locally, developing partnerships among groups, and sharing their knowledge, experience and information resources, community-based women’s groups can be a strong force in tobacco reduction initiatives for women.