Student quits smoking to win $2,500 prize


One Sheridan student put down the cigarette pack and picked up $2,500.

Harman Brar, a 23-year-old first-year Informational Technology student, was the winner of the Would U Rather quit smoking contest hosted by Leave the Pack Behind, a tobacco control initiative created by the Community Health Sciences Department at Brock University.

“I thought I won a small prize for quitting,” Brar said in a phone interview. “I was shocked when I was told otherwise. I was jumping for joy.”

Brar was stopped in the hall by a Leave the Pack Behind representative, and was asked if he smoked. Brar began smoking when he was 19, and had tried to quit before.

“The rep told me I should blow into an instrument to see how heavy of a smoker I was,” he said. “The results were worse than I thought, and it motivated me to try it out.”

Brar has been smoke-free ever since, and has gone almost three months without picking up a cigarette.

“It was an easy decision to quit,” he said. “I’d choose good health over cigarettes any day. It was hard at first, but it got easier as days went on.”

In order to make sure that Brar wasn’t smoking, he had to go through a series of tests, including a urine sample.  Brar had to completely quit smoking during the entire contest period, keep in contact with a special “support buddy,” and keep in contact with WUR.

In order to officially take part in the WUR challenge, students must meet certain eligibility criteria and submit a registration form either online, or in person to a LTPB representative.

Lindsay Taylor, Assistant Manager of Communications and Programming at LTPB, says there are four contests students can enter.

“Students could enter the Quit for Good category, which is pretty self-explanatory. The grand prize is $2,500,” she said. “Other categories include Keep the Count, Party Without the Smoke, and Don’t Start and Win.”

The Keep the Count category is designed to have daily smokers cut their tobacco consumption in half within six weeks. Party Without the Smoke encourages “social smokers” to agree to abstain from smoking at parties for six weeks, and Don’t Start and Win targets ex-smokers and non-smokers to stay smoke-free.

Back in 2010, another Davis student, Lacey Lapierre, won the Leave the Pack Behind challenge.

Tracy O’Donnell, a registered nurse at Davis Health Centre and Health Professional Liaison for Leave the Pack Behind, was ecstatic to have another Davis student pick up the prize.

“I am so excited that Davis was able to have another winner chosen for the grand prize for the Would U Rather contest,” she said. “I think this really gives us bragging rights to be able to say that one of our students has won the grand prize twice since 2010.”

Even though Brar is $2,500 richer, he doesn’t plan on spending his money on anything too special.

“I’ll probably just pay some bills,” he laughed.

Harman Brar poses with Tracy O’Donnell (right) and Campus Program Co-ordinator, Shannon Gronan (left) after winning the $2,500 grand prize

Harman Brar poses with Tracy O’Donnell, right, and campus program co-ordinator, Shannon Gronan after winning  $2,500 grand prize.