Three months ago, Keenan Boles woke up coughing so hard his chest ached.
He threw out his cigarettes and quit smoking.
"I felt really awful that day. I went into a big coughing fit, my lungs felt super-heavy, my throat felt coated with tar and something came over me and made me see it had to do with smoking," said Boles, 19, who quit "cold turkey" on Feb. 13. A smoker since he was 16, he was smoking about a pack of 25 cigarettes a week at a cost of about $12 to $15 per pack.
"That's going up now with the new tax hike. It's super-expensive, a big waste of money, as far as I'm concerned now, looking back on it. After three years of smoking, I was feeling it."
The price of smoking went up at midnight Tuesday after the Selinger provincial government's 2013 budget announced an increase in the tobacco tax of four cents to 29 cents per cigarette.
According to a study released Wednesday by the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Manitoba is now the most expensive place in Canada to smoke. With the tax increase, a carton of 200 cigarettes costs an average of $120.16, higher than even in the Northwest Territories.
But the health cost remains the same, with the increased chance of smokers developing lung disease, cancer and having heart attacks, among other dangers. Enter the Manitoba Lung Association with the third annual Manitoba Quits contest (www.manitobaquits.ca), open to anyone 18 or older who has been a smoker in the past year. The challenge is for contestants to stay smoke-free for the month of May. The entry deadline is April 30 and all contestants must enter with a Quit Buddy who will provide support. The contest will award five $1,000 prizes to non-smokers and $200 to five supporters.
"When I heard about the contest, I figured I'd enter to encourage myself to keep going forward quitting," said Boles, whose Quit Buddy is his mom, Shelley Sinclair. "My mom was all for it because she tried to get me to stop and I never listened!"
It's already paid off for Boles as he won an early-bird draw for a pair of tickets to the Mtley Crüe concert on May 7 at the MTS Centre.
Tracy Fehr, the Manitoba Lung Association's tobacco reduction co-ordinator, said there are about 800 people entered in the contest now.
"With the cigarette prices going up and people that are so frustrated with it, there's this contest to help support them along the way," Fehr said.
"If they enter the contest, they are tapped into all the resources that are out there," said Fehr. "Once they enter, they can get a call from the Smoker's Help Line, if they want. That has been shown to double a person's chances, just having that support."
Fehr is a former heavy smoker herself, up to two packs a day, so she understands the challenge faced by people who want to quit.
She said the one-month follow-up survey after last year's contest showed 58 per cent of the contestants had remained non-smokers.
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