Young Kangiqsujuaq man encourages youth to butt out
“I feel healthy, bigger and faster”
Nigel Adams still counts the days since the time he last smoked a cigarette: 380.
The 21-year-old from Kangiqsujuaq started the New Year in 2013 by making a big decision — to quit the nasty, seven-year-old habit once and for all.
He hopes he won’t have to keep counting forever, but for now, 380 days smoke-free is a big achievement for Adams, who works as a behaviour technician at the local Arsaniq school.
“I started smoking at 13. I was bullied into it by friends,” Adams said. “And then young kids started looking up to me, as an athlete.”
It’s that time of year again; the New Year, when Adams sees friends and family around him trying to quit smoking.
There aren’t any recent statistics for the Nunavik region, but the 2004 Qanuippitaa health survey revealed that more than seven in 10 Nunavimmiut were smokers.
More than half — 58 per cent — of Inuit in Nunavik aged 15 years and up smoke daily, Statistics Canada reported in 2006, with 15 as the average age when Inuit start smoking.
That’s roughly the same picture as in Nunavut, where 60 per cent of Nunavummiut smoke, more than triple that national rate.
So as National Non-Smoking Week kicks off Jan. 19, Adams hopes other young smokers can learn from his example.
“I see young kids smoking in the community all the time, and I tell them to stop,” he said. “They want to, but it’s not easy.”
Adams admits that quitting his pack-a-day habit was one of the hardest things he had to do.
“I felt sick all the time, I just wanted to go back to smoking,” he said. “I drank lots of water and went for long walks. And I lifted weights whenever I wanted to smoke.”
Adams credits weight-lifting for not only keeping him cigarette-free, but for building inner and outer strength.
Adams began spending hours working out at the local arena; someone who once considered himself “a skinny kid” put on 40 pounds of muscle in 2013.
“I feel healthy, bigger and faster,” he said. “I feel like my body has less weight.”
And that’s motivated him to be more active around the community; Adams just joined a hockey team, he coaches a youth badminton team and he says he’s improved his high kick and other Inuit games he participates in.
Last summer, Adams was even invited to demonstrate Inuit games and speak at the Unity Charity youth leadership event in Toronto.
Adams offers three bits of advice for young Nunavimmiut: think positive thoughts, be respectful and train hard.
And in 2014, he adds, do it without tobacco.
During National non-smoking week, community wellness workers in Nunavik will be visiting schools and going on local radio to discuss smoking.
The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services is also offering a Quit to Win Challenge, which encourages both adults and youth to quit smoking for a six-week period.
To participate, you must be a smoker who is at least eight-years-old.
Participants must commit to not smoking from midnight March 1, 2014 to midnight April 11, 2014. Application and consent forms are available at schools and health centres across Nunavik.
Adults can win return airfare to Montreal and $500 gift cards from the FCNQ or Northern Store.
Youth can also win airfare to Montreal or elsewhere in Nunavik, gift cards or an iPad.
Nunavut also hosts a similar competition, encouraging participants to quit smoking during the month of March. Read more about Tobacco Has No Place Here.