Jan. 16 to 22 is National Non-Smoking Week, which takes place on the third week of January every year. It is meant to help focus people on the objective of quitting tobacco and to help educate Canadians on the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

“It’s not good,” said Iqaluit resident Margaret Lawrence, who used to smoke.

“I know too many people who have had health issues, cigarette smoking on a very strong basis did not help their life. It was simply a comfort or an addiction,” she added.

It’s never too late to quit, she adds.

“I don’t want to die like people I really cared about died. We’re all going to go, but not that way,” said Lawrence.

As of Oct. 2018, an estimated 74 per cent of those 16 years of age and older in Nunavut have reported using tobacco products. A rate four times higher than the national average.

Last year on May 28, 2021, Nunavut’s legislators made its first update in 15 years on smoking legislation, banning cigarette smoking in publicly-funded housing and in vehicles with minors present.

Then-Health minister Lorne Kusugak also spoke about the importance of protecting young Nunavummiut from the dangers of tobacco use.

“I think what’s key here at this time is to go through an education process” so that vendors and people who sell tobacco, said Kusugak, are more aware of the “rules and laws regarding it and the kind of penalties that would be enforced.”

Another Iqaluit resident, Ryan McGowan says he has tried to quit several times.

“I got to the point where I didn’t smoke for a few months. Then I got the opportunity to have one,” he adds.

McGowan cites stress as a significant factor which drives him to smoke, alongside cravings.

While quitting is hard, he says there are ways to keep your mind off of cigarettes.

“I would just try and stay busy. Drinking water, snacking, keep my mind off of it for the most part.”

According to the Canadian Lung Association, tobacco continues to be the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the country. An estimated 48,000 Canadians die each year as a result of smoking.

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