Nunavut observes World No Tobacco Day

Communities hold breakfasts to mark no-smoking day in a territory where more than half of the population smokes, and eight in 10 pregnant women light up.

Communities hold breakfasts to mark no-smoking day

Today is World No Tobacco Day, a day set aside to encourage people to stop smoking or at least not smoke for a day.

In Nunavut, where smoking rates are highest in the country, more than half of the population smokes, and eight in 10 pregnant women light up.

A new anti-smoking campaign — "Tobacco has no place here" — began in January.

Alana Kronstal, a tobacco reduction specialist with the Nunavut Government, said sometimes a campaign takes three years to show results. In the meantime many Nunavummiut continue to suffer from tobacco-related illnesses.

"Lung cancer is one of the hardest cancers to fight, so we have very aggressive cancers coming around," she said.

"They are killing Nunavummiut from a preventable cause and we cannot afford to lose anybody else to this product."

According to the World Health Organization, 6 million people will die this year from tobacco-related illnesses.

Kronstal said breakfasts in many Nunavut communities were scheduled to happen this morning. In Iqaluit the community breakfast will be held on Saturday.

Eight years smoke-free

One Iqaluit man chose this day eight years ago to quit smoking.

Ainiak Korgak, who works for the Department of Health and Social Services in Iqaluit, said he decided to quit smoking at midnight May 31, 2004.

He said he ran out of smokes shy of midnight and bummed a cigarette while out fishing with friends west of town. But Korgak did quit that night, and he says he's noticed a big difference in his health.

"I used to cough quite a bit, you know like morning cough and I thought you know that's normal getting older but, it's not," he said. "It had a lot to do with my smoking. I also noticed at my advancing age — I'm over 50, close to 60 — that I don't feel as tired easily as when I was smoker."

Kronstal said health centres can now stock smoking cessation products on site, meaning people who want help to quit won't have to wait.

"Nurses in communities can order in nicotine replacement therapy and keep it in stock so that when people come into community health centres and they want to start on the patch or get some nicotine replacement gum, they can get it right away."