Recollections and Stories

Health and wellness workers in Inuit communities are an amazing group. You work on many health issues and have close connections to your community members. You are making a difference. Your encouragement and assistance to help smokers quit and youth not to start is very important work.

This page is for stories and photos about your tobacco use reduction activities in your communities and regions. Quitting stories and elders’ recollections are also welcome (send to Here are some quitting questions you could answer:

  • What made you think about quitting smoking, chewing tobacco or snuff?
  • How did you quit?
  • Who or what helped you?
  • What advice do you have for others thinking about quitting?

Featured video story
This is the winning video clip in the “Smoke Stories: Quit Clips by Inuit Youth – Video Screening Contest.” Filmed by Kendra Tagoona, Crystal Navratil and Nancy Etok, this video talks about the challenges and benefits of quitting smoking. It was aired on CBC Northern TV in March 2011. (For the full versions of these clips and the rest of the series of quitting videos with footage gathered by Inuit youth SCROLL further down.)
Inuit language version

English version
Inuit Tuttarvingat, NAHO 2011

Changing the Culture of Smoking project update
National Indian and Inuit Community Health Representatives Organization and Consultancy for Alternative Education, December 2011.
This update reports on the news from the activities in Aklavik, NWT from June until November 2011. Along with lots of pictures, topics include: Tobacco quizzes for Halloween (to help educate kids and adults on tobacco and second-hand smoke); Sessions in school; Collecting quitting stories;  and, Smoke-free pond hockey.

Quitting story
From Jolyn Pijogge, Hopedale, Nunatsiavut – March 2011

“I started smoking when I was sixteen; young enough to think I was invincible but not old enough yet to even purchase them. If there was ever a period in my life that I made mistakes, it certainly was back then.

“Smoking was a steady habit throughout the years, increasing in frequency and eating away at a budget that didn’t include cigarettes. The habit seemed to become more expensive as I realized that they weren’t always smoked by myself, but also by others who “bummed” them, often with empty promises to pay me back.

“Besides the financial downfall, I gradually noticed my health deteriorating. Breaths became shallower and labored as I replaced clean, fresh air with toxic cigarette smoke. Any sort of physical activity would be hampered because it was harder for me to breathe and my body wasn’t receiving the oxygen that it needed. Evenings, and particularly mornings, screamed that I was a smoker; it was during those times of the day that I would cough and wheeze and find myself having to spit to rid my insides of phlegm.

“Even visits to the dentist became an embarrassment. Visits weren’t as regular as expected, but thankfully, I had no serious problems. The last couple of visits that I had were for cleanings and during each of those visits the hygienist asked if I was a smoker. It was obvious to her from the black residue that came from my teeth and particularly under my gum line.

“I suppose even my hygiene took a beating from cigarette smoke. After leaving an area and entering a smoke-free place, I could plainly smell the cigarette smoke off of my clothing. I was so used to the odor that I didn’t take notice of how strong it was. I can only imagine what my hair and fingers smelled like. As for nicotine stains on my fingers, thankfully that wasn’t a problem, but there were times that it was evident through the color and stench. Just as I could taste the smoke in my mouth, I’m sure that it smelled of smoke too.

“Upon realizing the unwelcome financial and physical effects of smoking I tried to “seriously” quit once, approximately three years ago. Regretfully, that attempt was unsuccessful. During that three week period I tried quitting with a nicotine inhaler. The inhaler is a cigarette substitute which replaces a real cigarette in the sense that you hold it and inhale from it as you would a real cigarette. With only a little self-motivation and a barrage of cravings, the inhaler works for a short period; in my case, three weeks to be exact.

“After that failed attempt, I quit quitting and was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to actually become a non-smoker until I knew in my heart that I was really determined to try. I had to be honest to myself. I told myself that unless I was really going to put the effort into quitting, it was no good to say that I was going to quit; I did not want to make a fool of myself and set myself up for disappointment. So there ended my empty promises to quit smoking.

Or so I thought.

On December 20, 2010 I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. Never in my whole smoking life did I feel more like quitting! That special occurrence was a no-brainer for me – smoking no longer would be a part of my life. I had one cigarette that evening, and one more in January; I have not touched or smoked another cigarette since.

“For those of you out there who are considering quitting, I would definitely encourage you to go for it. It is not an easy feat, but it is worth it. If you have the right supports, reasons for quitting, and some will power, it is possible; it just takes a lot of determination. I think that the hardest part for me was the cravings. When the cravings came, I found it hard to concentrate on anything else, but I knew that they only lasted a few minutes and if I can get through those few minutes then I’d do alright. If I was strong enough to avoid a cigarette within that craving period, then I knew I was on my way to quitting. I was determined to control the cravings – not let them control me.

“Had it not been for my pregnancy, I think that I would still be a smoker. I quit because the minute that I found out that I was pregnant everything changed. All the decisions that I made were in the best interest of my baby. I was aware of what posed potential hazards and harmful effects to my baby and smoking was no exception. Since becoming pregnant I’ve made healthier choices and hope to continue on that path even after my baby is born.

“As I’m certain that I’ll thank my child for many blessings in the future, I’ll thank him/her now for helping me quit smoking and I’ll say thank you for giving me life.”

Congratulations to two residents in Nain who chose to be smoke-free
Submitted by Elsie Diamond from the Nunatsiavut Government

A celebration meal and wonderful stories were shared on Jan. 26, 2011 in Nain, Labrador for “The Smoking Challenge.” The challenge began on November 6, 2010, in partnership with the Nunatsiavut Government’s Department of Health and Social Development and the Community Youth Network.

In “The Smoking Challenge” Katie Winters lasted three hours; Bertha Saimat lasted two weeks; Johnny Ikkusek and Liz Pijogge are still quit smoking. Johnny and Liz each won an ipod Touch for their efforts. Way to go!

The winners of “The Smoking Challenge”: Liz Pijogge and Johnny Ikkusek

Smoke Stories: Quit clips by Inuit youth
Video Screening Contest Report
Inuit Tuttarvingat, NAHO, August 2011

Quitting stories collected by Inuit youth
Inuit Tuttarvingat, NAHO, 2010
Part 1: About the Inuit Youth Flip Camera Project

Kendra Tagoona, project coordinator at the Inuit Tobacco-free Network, describes the Inuit Youth Flip Video Tobacco Cessation project.
Watch English video

Inuit language video


Part 2: Elders’ perspectives on Tobacco
Elders Abraham and Meeka Arnakaq talk about why they quit smoking 20 years ago, and how they feel today.
Watch English video
Inuit language video


Part 3: The Chevrier’s
One family from Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec shares their experiences with quitting, and how smoking has affected them individually and the rest of the family.
Watch English video
Inuit language video

Part 4: Pangnirtung Youth
Two youth from Pangnirtung, Nunavut talk about their views on smoking, quitting smoking and the pressures youth face to start to smoke.
Watch English video
Inuit language video

Part 5: Selma’s Story
Selma Ford, originally from Nain, Labrador, talks about her experiences as a non-smoker, and how smoking has affected her family.
Watch English video
Inuit language video

Part 6: Quitting
Inuit talk about personal experiences and their family members who have quit smoking, and how it has changed or improved their lives.
Watch English video
Inuit language video

Part 7: Nain, Labrador Youth
Jennie Williams interviews youth in their early teens. Her videos show real opinions of youth from Nain, Labrador and how they truly think and feel about the issue of smoking.
Watch English video
Inuit language video

Part 8: Lindsey Quits
Lindsey Moorhouse, originally from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, talks about her recent experiences with quitting smoking. She talks about her struggles, and what she has done to cope.
Watch English video
Inuit language video

Pauktuutit Kit: Our Ancestors Never Smoked
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006
Book (Nunavik Inuttitut/English)
Poster (Nunavik Inuttitut/English)
Facilitator Guide
Flip Chart (picture-based resource)