SASKATOON -- With the potential COVID-19 has to damage the lungs, smokers are taking notice and trying to kick the habit according to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS).

The CCS said Saskatchewan has seen the most significant increase in those looking to quit.

Since the pandemic started in March, the Smoker’s Helpline has seen calls from Saskatchewan smokers double. John Atkinson, vice president of cancer prevention with the CCS said the rest of the country saw a 26 per cent increase.

Atkinson said he doesn't know why Saskatchewan smokers are reaching out to get help more than other areas, adding that Saskatchewan has the highest smoking rate in the country, so he’s encouraged.

“This is the first of its kind where we’ve seen a sustained increase in people quitting smoking. This is a first in our history of 20 years of operating the Smoker’s Helpline,” Atkinson told CTV News.

Atkinson said the only other comparison the helpline can make was during the MERS outbreak in 2012, that was also a respiratory illness. He said even then, the increase in calls by smokers looking to butt out, wasn’t this high.

Nicola Tabb smoked for 31 years and she was one of those who decided to quit in March.

She said she tried to quit many times and was planning for a 2020 date to try again, but the pandemic hit and it sunk in that she could die if she got the virus.

“I thought I have to do everything in my power to make myself as healthy as possible if I get it so I have the capacity to fight it if I get it,” Tabb told CTV News.

That combined with It was a realization that she could come into contact with someone who had COVID-19 quite easily, prompted her and her husband to start the journey to quit.

She keeps stats on her phone about how much money she’s saved by not smoking; enough to do some home renovations and to take a vacation once it’s possible.

“By not spending money on cigarettes, between the two of us, we have saved $10,000 in eight months.”

This is the longest she’s gone without a cigarette and is confident this is it. She’s so sure, that she threw out her last emergency pack of cigarettes a few weeks ago.