Back to top

Creating a Smoke-Free Environment for your Children


I Introduction
II Background – French version
III Background – English version
IV Dissemination – how the video can be used
V Advisory Committees

--by Louise Choquette, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre

I Introduction

The Best Start Resource Centre, a program of Health Nexus, is currently completing a project financed by Health Canada which seeks to reduce the exposure of young children and pregnant women to second-hand smoke. This article offers some background information on the topic and summarizes the development and dissemination steps followed for this project.

All the English resources for this project can be ordered or downloaded from the Best Start website at The French resources are available at

II Background – French version

In 2007, a proposal was made by the Best Start Resource Centre to Health Canada under the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy. This proposal involved the development and dissemination of a training program for service providers to enable them to offer workshops to the public. A video, a facilitator's guide and training sessions on the social impact of second-hand smoke were at the heart of this program, which received approval for a start date of April 1st, 2009.

The first step was to reach Francophones in Ontario. In Ontario, smoking has declined in recent years, from 22.4% in 1994 – 95 [1] to 20.1% in 2000 – 2001. [2] However, daily use of cigarettes by Francophones was 27.1% in 2000 – 2001, therefore, much higher than in the rest of the population. Consequently, a greater number of Francophones also indicated exposure to second-hand smoke. [3]

Francophone service providers had identified their need for quality training materials on the topic of second-hand smoke. The video produced as part of this program emphasizes the health and social impacts of second-hand smoke: how are families affected by second-hand smoke and what strategies do they use to reduce exposure of children and pregnant women?

An advisory committee representing service providers working in tobacco control and maternal and child health in Ontario was established to develop the key messages of the training program. Members of the public, including people who smoked and former smokers, were also part of this committee. Some Franco-Ontarians agreed to offer a testimonial for this 22-minute video, sharing the strategies they had used to reduce the impact of second-hand smoke. A facilitator's manual was produced to assist stakeholders to present on this delicate subject. Complementary resources such as posters, an evaluation and information on second-hand smoke for participants completed the program.

The training was tested with a few service providers who in turn presented the video to the public. A series of in-person and distance workshops followed in early 2010. Targeted free distribution of the materials was included and all Ontario Early Years Centres, Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Programs, Community Action Programs for Children and a few other Francophone organizations in Canada were offered a copy of the video and were invited to take part in the training.

III Background – English version

Following the success of the training program in French, the Best Start Resource Centre asked Health Canada for additional funding in order to create an English version of the program since there was no similar resource available. This program would be an adaptation, not a mere translation.

A new advisory committee was formed for the English version. It became apparent that the "harm reduction" aspect, used to some extent for the French video, was very important and needed to be emphasized. This would correspond well to the STARSS program from AWARE ( already used by several agencies working with low-income families.

The advisory committee went to great lengths to recruit young people who managed to reduce the exposure of their children to second-hand smoke, even if they smoked themselves. For example, one of the testimonials in the video is from a young couple who smokes and lives in an apartment without a balcony but manages to maintain a smoke-free environment for their four-month old baby. A greater diversity of social situations was depicted in this English version. In addition, evaluations of the French video had indicated that the public would have liked to have the testimonial of a child and a pediatric health care professional, which was integrated into the English video. A few additional strategies were also been identified through the testimonials. Because of this, the English video is a bit longer than the French version - 24 minutes in length.

Complementary products have been developed to accompany the English version and training sessions were conducted in person and remotely during the fall and winter of 2010. This version was well received by agencies working with socio-economically disadvantaged clients. A targeted free distribution was made to these organizations and to several other agencies working with families with young children, such as Ontario Early Years Centres.

IV Dissemination – how the video can be used

The video has been used in a variety of ways across the country. Many service providers working with low-income future or new parents have shown the video through programs such as the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program and the Community Action Program for Children. A discussion follows the viewing of the video and participants have the opportunity to hear a variety of points of view.

The video is also shown one-on-one through home visiting programs and the home visitor can then discuss the content with the family and help them find strategies which may work for their specific situation.

Although the video did not intend to be a smoking cessation video, some facilitators are showing it to people who smoke, in the hope that they will progress towards a smoke-free lifestyle.

Many resource centres have also made the video available for loan through their libraries and are promoting its availability through their newsletters.

This Health Canada project draws to a close but the resources will continue to be available at cost recovery prices. It is hoped that service providers will continue to use this training program in the coming years.

V Advisory Committees

The Best Start Resource Centre would like to thank the staff of the following organizations for their active collaboration in the development of these training programs: The Program Training and Consultation Centre, Middlesex-London Health Unit, Porcupine Health Unit, AWARE, the Centre de santé communautaire du Temiskaming and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

VI References

1. Statistics Canada, Smoking status, household population aged 12 and over, 1994/95-1998/99;

2. Statistics Canada, Smoking status, household population aged 12 and over, 2000/01;

3. L’Institut franco-ontarien of Laurentian University and the Programme de recherche, d’éducation et de développement en santé publique (2005)  “Le deuxième rapport sur la santé des francophones de l’Ontario”.