Kaitak Allukpik has been here before.

He gave up cigarettes on Jan. 8. It’s something he’s tried several times in the past, never lasting longer than a few weeks without resuming the dreaded habit.

Kaitak Allukpik began another journey to quit smoking on Jan. 8. Although his attempts in the past have never extended beyond a few weeks, he’s confident he’s going to succeed this time
photo courtesy of the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay

But he maintains a sense of optimism and says this time he’s prepared to pour himself into exercise when he’s feeling a craving to reach for a cigarette.

Allukpik, 22, started smoking in 2015. He can’t remember the exact occasion when he first lit up, but he gradually began smoking up to half a pack of cigarettes per day as it helped him relax when feeling stressed. But a package of smokes in Cambridge Bay costs as much as $26, he said, so kicking this habit will result in a lot more money left in his pocket.

“It’s expensive,” he said. “So I’m going to start saving money, never buying tobacco anymore. That is a big deal for me.”

More importantly, quitting smoking will prevent further damage to his lungs. He’s been spitting up phlegm with dark spots in it, which has caused him concern.

“It’s just keeping myself healthy,” said Allukpik, whose parents both smoke so he grew up around it. “It’s really addictive but I find it kind of gross now because it’s getting my lungs black now.”

Smoking is associated with higher rates of lung and mouth cancers, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Tuberculosis and pneumonia can be made worse by use of cigarettes.

Tobacco use is a serious problem in Nunavut. An estimated 74 per cent of Nunavummiut use some form of the drug, according to the Government of Nunavut. That’s far above the national average of 15.8 per cent. The next highest single jurisdiction is the Northwest Territories at 34 per cent, less than half of Nunavut’s rate.

Close to one in five deaths in Nunavut can be attributed to tobacco use, according to the Department of Health.

Nurses, doctors, mental health workers and community health representatives can provide advice and various resources to Nunavummiut. As well, “quit coaches” can be accessed around the clock every day through a toll-free telephone line: 1-866-368-7848 or through an online live chat option.

Allukpik said he’d consider calling the helpline if he feels he needs it.

Some people experience success with nicotine replacement therapy, which can be consumed through patches, gum, inhalers, mouth spray and lozenges. There are also medications that can be prescribed to improve one’s chances of never smoking again.

Of Canadians who have ever been smokers, 63.1 per cent have now quit, according to the University of Waterloo in Ontario, but some of them, like Allukpik, have had to try several times.

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