A new study from Saint Joseph's Health Care in London has found remarkable success with a stop-smoking program offered to patients who were set to undergo surgery.

Tracey Newman-Marshall was a smoker for more than 20 years.

But a study she joined at St. Joseph’s ahead of scheduled knee surgery helped her to quit, “They saved me. They threw me a rope and they saved me,” she says.

For the study, one group of patients was simply told to stop smoking three weeks before surgery and given a pamphlet.

The other group, which Newman-Marshall was part of, had a much more comprehensive stop-smoking program that involved one-on-one counselling and a supply of nicotine patches.

"The Smokers Helpline - they called me frequently and at opportune moments where I was very vulnerable and had thought about having a cigarette. They'd call and were so supportive."

The comprehensive program showed far more success.

On the day of surgery 14.3 per cent of patients in the treatment group had stopped smoking, compared to just 3.6 per cent of the control group.

After 30 days, 28.6 per cent of the treatment group were smoke free compared to 11 per cent in the control group. 

Lawson researcher and study author Dr. Pat Morley-Foster says pre-surgery is a good teachable moment for smokers who want to quit.

"In the last few years there's been quite a lot of research to show that people who smoke have a higher chance of infection in their surgical wound, a higher chance of problems with their lungs either during or after their surgery and a slightly higher chance of a heart attack.”

Dr. Jen Landry, also a study author, says it's hoped the program offered to Newman-Marshall will be expanded.

It would "Continue to refer people to the Smokers Helpline, provide them with brochures and some brief counselling in the pre-admit clinics in the city and then hopefully that will develop into a provincial or even national program."

Newman-Marshall is now smoke-free and confident she'll stay that way, “I feel that I’m controlling it. It doesn't control me any longer. “