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Nunavik kicks butt in quit-smoking contest

Quebec awards territory a special “prix d’honneur”

By JANE GEORGE

Organizers of a Quebec-wide contest to quit smoking are so impressed with Nunavik’s participation in the 2004 “Quit to Win” challenge that they’ve awarded the region a special “Prix d’honneur” mention.

To enter this challenge, more than 860 Nunavimmiut promised to stay smoke-free from March 1 to April 11.

Some 38,000 people across Quebec were also involved, but the rate of participation by Nunavik’s smokers — 4.26 per cent — is twice that of other regions.

Many ex-smokers and non-smokers entered the Nunavik challenge, pledging to remain smoke-free, although elsewhere in Quebec only smokers are eligible.

Overall, 35 per cent of adult and youth who participated from Nunavik were smokers and 65 per cent were non-smokers.

Almost half of the 507 youth who participated were smokers.

“Congratulations to all the people in Nunavik who entered the challenge this year,” said Dr. Serge Déry, the director of public health for the region. “This trend towards living smoke-free is going to prevent much suffering and disease and (save) many lives in the future.”

Smoking is considered to be one of Nunavik’s major health problems, directly responsible for at least 15 deaths a year.

The 2004 Gold Cup for community participation, and a community feast, went to Quaqtaq, where 24 adults and 34 youth signed on to the challenge.

Aupaluk won the Gold Cup for schools, for the second year in a row. Taqsakallak School will also receive $3,000.

Kiluutaq School in Umiujaq, where 72 per cent of the youth participated, came in second place, and Akulivik took third prize.

By age 12, two out of three Nunavimmiut are already smoking. By the time they turn 15, they’re puffing on 15 cigarettes every day.

To promote non-smoking, students at Akulivik’s Tukisiniarvik School made enormous no-smoking posters out of old cigarette packs.

Elder Eyukka Pinguatuq from Kangiqsujuaq, Pasha Berthe from Tasiujaq and Jimmy Simigak from Kangirsuk won their divisions in the challenge, while youth winners were Bobby Ilimasaut, 15, from Kangiqsujuaq, Saipilie Berthe, 11, from Tasiujaq, and Nellie Tukalak, 11, from Puvirnituq.

This year, it was mainly the residents of Nunavik’s smaller communities who said they want to quit smoking and stay that way.

Aupaluk and Tasijuaq, Nunavik’s smallest communities, had the highest rates of participation in the 2004 challenge.

In Aupaluk, 25 per cent of the adult population and 112 per cent of the youth (more than recorded by the 2001 census) participated. In Tasiujaq, 28 per cent of adults and 98 per cent of youth participated.

The lowest level of participation came from Nunavik’s largest community, Kuujjuaq, where only 38 people entered the 2004 challenge. Only three per cent of adults, 33 adults, and one per cent of youth, five young people, entered.

Nunavik’s other larger communities did much better than Kuujjuaq. Puvirnituq had 117 entrants in the challenge and Inukjuak 134.

According to statistics from the challenge’s organizers, about 35 per cent of smokers who participate are still smoke-free after six months, and close to 30 per cent are non-smokers after one year.

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