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New funding to explore expansion of access to smoking cessation interventions for priority populations

Posted on September 6, 2022

NOSM University and Lakehead University researcher and joint faculty member, Dr. Patricia Smith, is exploring options to expand access to evidence-based smoking cessation interventions.

The project has received $302,413 in funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Healthy Canadians and Communities Fund (HCCF). First Response Mental Health will be partnering on the grant with matched in-kind funding and a customized version of their PeerConnect proactive peer support management app.

Smoking remains the single most preventable cause of premature death and disease in Canada, causing more than 40 diseases and other serious health outcomes, and is the leading cause of lung cancer.

“There are subgroups of the population that have disproportionately high rates of smoking, which puts them at increased risk for serious health conditions,” says Smith.

Age is a major factor: a high proportion of people under 45, especially males, smoke. Smoking is also higher among those with less than a high school education, people in the lowest income groups, members of LGBTQI2S+ communities, Indigenous peoples, people with mental health conditions and/or substance use disorders, and people in rural and remote settings.

Research shows that smoking cessation programs offering at least eight sessions and focusing on behaviour change strategies are more effective at helping people quit compared to trying to quit on one’s own, brief interventions, or smoking cessation medications.

However, “few people use behavioural programs, often because there is no access to programs or the services do not meet people’s needs,” says Smith. “This project will explore what people’s needs are and what services exist to match those needs.”

“Researchers at NOSM University are committed to changing health outcomes for Northern Ontarians,” says Dr. David Marsh, Associate Dean, Research, Innovation and International Relations.

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead University’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, congratulated Dr. Smith for receiving this funding and thanked PHAC for its continued support.
“This important work will allow the research and implementation of smoking cessation programs led by Dr. Smith to reach target populations where smoking rates are disproportionality higher than in the general population,” Dr. Dean said. “Prevention is the key to many diseases and perhaps no more so than with diseases related to smoking.”

This investment from the HCCF supports Canada’s Tobacco Strategy, which recognizes smoking as a key modifiable risk factor for chronic disease and aims to reduce tobacco use to five percent by the year 2035.

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NOSM University is Canada’s first independent medical university and one of the greatest education and physician workforce strategy success stories of Northern Ontario. More than just a medical university, it was purpose built to address the health needs of the region. While advocating for equitable access to care, the university contributes to the economic development of Northern Ontario. NOSM University relies on the commitment and expertise of the peoples of Northern Ontario to educate health-care professionals to practise in Indigenous, Francophone, rural, remote and underserved communities. With a focus on diversity, inclusion and advocacy, NOSM University is an award-winning, socially accountable organization renowned for its innovative model of distributed, community-engaged education and research. NOSM University connects researchers, learners, teams and their findings to research entities, provincial health teams, research institutes, academic health sciences centres and health-care organizations. The university strengthens research capacity in Northern Ontario, improving performance and measurable outcomes in health services, quality health care, health and biomedical research and knowledge translation.

Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education’s 2022 World Universities Rankings for the third consecutive year, and the number one university in the world with fewer than 10,000 students in THE’s 2022 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit

First Response Mental Health Inc. (FRMH) developed the PeerConnect proactive peer support management system to address the increased need for public safety and first responder organizations to provide consistent, measurable and proactive wellness offerings to their members, particularly in the areas of peer support and critical incident response. Since its founding and initial launch in 2019, PeerConnect has been implemented among EMS, Police, Fire, Corrections, Hospital and other public-serving groups across North America. 

For further information, please contact:

Brandon Walker
Media, Communications and Marketing Associate
Lakehead University
807-343-8110 ext. 8372