With the smoking rate of First Nations youth in BC significantly higher than the provincial average, a health officer is calling it a “critical” health and wellness issue.
The statement – made by Dr. Evan Adams, chief medical officer with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) – comes on the heels of a newly launched anti-smoking campaign, aimed at 13 to 16 year olds.
The campaign was officially launched this past weekend at the opening ceremony of the province’s Junior All Native Basketball Tournament in Kelowna.
The Youth Respecting Tobacco campaign features two 30-second video PSAs created by First Nations teens for their peers, highlighting life with and without commercial tobacco.
“Up to 54% of Aboriginal teens use commercial tobacco and many start smoking cigarettes before they start high school,” Adams added.
According to the latest Health Canada figures, dated 2012/13, 19% of young people in BC between Grades 6 and 12 have tried smoking.
The campaign webpage features resources for smoking cessation from FNHA and its partners, as well as information on the Youth Respecting Tobacco campaign.
It also features instructions on how to enter the campaign’s youth video contest, running through June 19, along the theme: “Respecting Tobacco.”
To be in with a chance of winning one of three $1,000 prizes, all you need to do to enter is upload a 15-60 second Instagram video about changing the impact of smoking in our life.
The contest “will allow First Nations teens to share what they are doing or plan to do to change the impact of commercial tobacco on their lives,” the FNHA said in a release.
Tyneshia Commodore, a Soowahlie youth who worked on the campaign videos, believes it’s important to spread the anti-smoking message.
“I think it’s important to share the message of not smoking and build awareness of peer pressure because it happens daily with many youth,” she said. “I just want to show everybody that smoking, and the use of other drugs, isn’t always the answer.
Being in the commercial “felt really good,” Commodore added. “I felt amazing because I got to be a part of that message and maybe be the change for some other youth—maybe one day help them.”