British Columbia

Up to 54% of Aboriginal teens in B.C. smoke tobacco, says health authority

A new video is encouraging Indigenous youth to butt out and "respect tobacco" to save lives.

'It's sad to remind people that smoking has a cost and it's one that they don't have to pay.'

First Nations youth from across BC created the "Youth Respecting Tobacco" videos to "stand up to big tobacco and fight for their health." (First Nations Health Authority)

New statistics about Indigenous youth and commercial tobacco use in British Columbia have sparked a video commercial and a campaign showing its lethal capabilities.

Indigenous teens smoke at a rate 2-3 times higher than other teens in B.C., and up to 54 per cent of teenagers are users of tobacco, according to the First Nations Health Authority. 

The FNHA collected the stats from Indigenous youth across the province and decided to embark on a cessation campaign led by Indigenous youth

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Evan Adams says the statistics and the accompanying video tell a story.

"Education and health knowledge can save lives," says Adams.

"It's kind of sad to remind people that smoking has a cost and it's one that they don't have to pay," he added.

Adams says one of the 30-second PSA's uses zombies as a metaphor to explain what could happen to a person if they smoke cigarettes for recreational purposes. It says youth become "mindless" and "uncontrollable" when they smoke.

In the 30 second video about smoking cessation, youth act like zombies to portray their view that people are "mindless" and "uncontrollable" when they use tobacco for recreational purposes. (First Nations Health Authority)

The campaign is called "Youth Respecting Tobacco." Traditionally, some Indigenous people in BC used tobacco ceremonially, but through this campaign, Indigenous youth are calling for a return to those traditional ways, by not smoking it for recreational purposes.

For Adams it's also about seeing themselves reflected on screen in the way they want to be seen, and encouraging other youth to do the same.

Dr. Evan Adams is the First Nations Health Authority's Chief Medical Officer. He says the campaign asks youth "how they are #respectingtobacco”. Videos can be posted on Instagram with the hashtag and by tagging the First Nations Health Authority. (First Nations Health Authority)

"In the past when we tried to talk to youth about smoking cessation, it had some effect but maybe not a complete and total effect, so one of our ideas was to hand it over to youth and see what would they do to protect each other," Adam said.

The campaign, which includes a video contest on social media runs from March 19 to June 19, 2017.

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