PCL & OPH Cessation Program join forces to encourage workers to ‘Quit the Smoke Break’

OTTAWA, Ontario (March 27, 2018) - When PCL Ottawa first heard of the ‘Quit the Smoke Break’ program, it was excited to share the news, especially on its job sites. Smoking within the construction industry is still a major habit many workers are trying to kick.

‘Quit the Smoke Break’ resonated strongly for one PCL worker in particular. Jean-Francois Bessette heard about the program through a cheque stuffer he received with his pay stub. He had previously tried quitting a number of times, but when he got the letter from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) he took it upon himself to call and ask for support, not only for him, but for his fellow workers on site as well. PCL management agreed to implement the program on the West Block project site.

Jean-Francois began spreading the word to all on-site. He told workers, “no pressure, but this is a great opportunity and OPH can help.” Jean-Francois managed to recruit 23 workers on his own. “Quitting isn’t easy, but knowing there’s support available to me through this program really makes a difference. Sometimes you want to quit but don’t know where to start. This OPH program closed the gap for the other guys and me.”

Heidi McKean, Ottawa Public Health Nurse for the Tobacco Control Unit, is proud to work with the construction community and see the smoke-free shift happening. With the higher smoking rates seen on construction sites, Heidi first noticed the hesitations from a preconceived notion that “we were going to force people to quit.” Soon workers realized that OPH and the program are there to provide the tools and the information for people that are ready to quit, which can double workers chances for success. The key message from OPH is ‘when you are ready to quit’ we are here to help. The key to the program’s success is PCL’s Health and Safety group and OPH are working together towards the same goal of supporting workers through their journey to quit for a healthier life.

“The Smoking Cessation program is something I have been involved with since we invited Heidi to the Labour Management Meeting a few years ago for her to promote in the construction industry.” said Maurice Gravel, District HSE Manager for PCL. “Heidi has done a great job at keeping us all informed on the benefits and results of this program. Knowing the health benefits of this program allows me to keep promoting and supporting Heidi with their goals.”


  • Provide the skills, proper tools, and power to quit smoking tobacco successfully.
  • Tailored specifically to when the worker is READY to quit.
  • Built to create a supportive, smoke-free culture.

This program was designed in partnership with construction management and workers, and has been successfully running since 2013. Client satisfaction surveys show that:

  • 100% of clients are completely satisfied
  • 100% of clients would recommend this program to others


The Fresh Air contest (1-month contest) with three categories (Quit, Help Someone to Quit, and Don’t Smoke) for all to participate regardless of whether you smoke or not.

If deemed eligible, workers receive five weeks of FREE NRT. Using NRT + receiving cessation support = 2x chances for successfully quitting, ongoing support and referral to Smokers’ Helpline and community resources.


  • Statistics show that the smoking rate among construction workers is double that of the national average (34% vs. 17%).
  • 60% of current tobacco users say they plan to quit smoking in the next six months.
  • 77% of workers want their health information in their place of work.1

Read the press release here.

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