GN mounts campaign to scare the smoke out of people

Nunavut’s health department uses gruesome images to teach the truth about tobacco addiction.



Smoking isn’t cool.

That’s the message of the Nunavut government’s anti-tobacco campaign aimed at youth in the territory.

“By age 19, 75 per cent of our youth are smoking. That’s frightening,” said Ed Picco, Nunavut’s minister of health and social services.

Picco was speaking at a news conference held Monday in Iqaluit — the first day of National Non-Smoking Week — where he unveiled a video that is the latest in a series of resources in his department’s war on smoking.

The 60-second video, aimed at youth and outlining the dangers of smoking, debuted Tuesday on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network and CBC North.

The video is part of an aggressive $1 million tobacco-reduction campaign intended to encourage young people in Nunavut to not start smoking, or, if they’ve started, to quit.

Because the video appears on APTN, it will be seen across the country. It’s Nunavut’s first national advertisement, Picco said.

As part of his department’s effort, each school and health centre in Nunavut has been sent packages containing anti-smoking materials such as posters, fact sheets and copies of Gasp magazine.

The first two of a series of visually shocking posters were unveiled earlier in the campaign.

One features the deformed mouth of a man suffering from cancer caused by smoking.

The other shows a young woman with inset images highlighting the damage smoking could cause to different parts of her body. Her ailments include skin damage, mouth and throat cancers, and lung disease.

Another poster will be unveiled sometime in March, Picco said.

Gasp, subtitled Finding Out the Truth About Tobacco, is a magazine offered free to all schools. It’s produced by the British Columbia ministry of health.

The magazine contains frank images and information on the effects of smoking.

Picco is unapologetic about the shocking images displayed in the anti-smoking materials his department is distributing.

“You will see our message is both graphic and quite disturbing, but so are the facts of smoking here in Nunavut,” he said.

Picco said the heath department has also sponsored anti-smoking training workshops for health workers in the communities. The first was given by Pauktuutit, the national Inuit women’s organization, at the end of November in Iqaluit.

Although Nunavut’s anti-smoking campaign was figured into this year’s budget, it won’t end April 1, Picco said. He pledged to continue the war on smoking in Nunavut.

Picco said attitudes on smoking are already changing in the territory. Five years ago you’d commonly find smokers puffing away in front of children, but now they’re more likely to go outside to smoke, he said.

“We’re focusing on the preventative side of medicine,” Picco said.

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