REGINA – A Lumsden man is tackling Saskatchewan’s high smoking rate through an unconventional challenge and a documentary he’s trying to produce through crowdfunding.
For the past 20 years, Bruce Robinson has been offering strangers $1,000 if they quit smoking for at least one year.
“I don’t get anything out of it; I guess a good feeling if they quit,” he said.
He started the project 20 years ago, inspired to help people quit after his dad died from smoking.
Robinson lost three friends from smoking in recent years, which sparked the idea of the documentary.
The proposed movie: 1,000 Excuses to Quit, for which Robinson hopes to raise $45,000 will be shot this summer, and detail the stories of the people he meets during the challenge.
So far, out of over 1,000 offers, only six people have completed it.
“I’ve maybe had 50-75 people who actually try it, and they try it for a week or two, or even a month,” he said. “The reaction I get from people when I walk up to them is usually pretty positive. I’d say 70 per cent want to quit smoking.”
Leonard Callfas was one of those people.
“I gave him my cigarettes and he literally crushed them up and ripped them, gave them back to me, and told me I had to throw them in the garbage,” Callfas said.
He said that having the end prize on his mind helped him stay committed: “I want to get a motorcycle this year.”
Callfas earned his winnings last month, but saved much more by giving up the $100-a-week habit.
Regardless of how many people have quit because of Robinson, he’s started a conversation.
“He’s bringing this to the attention of the public that there are so many of us who are addicted to tobacco and health groups and the government need to address this,” said Lynn Greaves, president of the Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reduction.
Robinson says his challenge has a ripple effect.
“Generally speaking, if they quit, they’ll kind of pass it on to other people – ‘This is what I’ve done” – and maybe get the spark in other people that, yeah, maybe it’s not that hard to quit,” he said.