Alaska life

Helping Ourselves to Be Tobacco-Free

I love the coming of a new year. It is a great time for reflection about your life and it is a time to make new resolutions. It is a time when anything seems possible.

My daughters and I participated in a commercial for tobacco prevention for the State of Alaska. I used to smoke cigarettes in my teens and college years. I stopped when I started having children. I know of a few people who planning to quit tobacco in 2015, mainly for their health and children.

I have a wish list of things that I would like to see changed in 2015. One wish I have on the list is to lower the statistics of Alaska Natives using tobacco. Is 2015 a year to make that resolution to quit using tobacco? No matter if it’s a New Year’s resolution or any other times, it’s worth it to at least consider stopping tobacco use for your health.

According to the State of Alaska’s Tobacco Prevention & Control Program, Alaska Native adults have a smoking prevalence of 42.3% and a smokeless tobacco prevalence of 14.8% in 2013. Alaska Native youth have a smoking prevalence of 18.5% and a smokeless tobacco prevalence of 20.5% in 2013.

I spoke with Larry Kairaiuak with the State of Alaska Tobacco Prevention & Control program. Larry explained the increasing usage of e-cigarettes by youth. Usage of e-cigarettes by youth tripled in between 2011 and 2013. According to Larry, e-cigarettes are not regulated and they contain carcinogens (cancer causing agents).

“This is a growing trend we have to pay attention to, just to be one the safe side. We need to eliminate all types of harmful tobacco from our lives. It has long term affects. It has taken away our family member much too soon.”- Larry Kairaiuak, Yup’ik

Amy Modig shared the 2014 Alaska Tobacco Facts report. She works with the Growing Up Tobacco-Free in Alaska program at RurAL CAP. Amy pointed out the following statistics and information.

  • In 2011, there were about 3,600 deaths in Alaska (all deaths). Almost 600 died from tobacco use, making one in six deaths tobacco-related.
  • Smoking prevalence has remained high for Alaska Native adults, and has not changes significantly since 1996. Roughly 1 in 3 Alaska Native adults (37.9%) smoked in 2012.
  • Among non-Native adults, smoking has decreased significantly from 24.9% in 1996 to 18.1% in 2012 (p ‹ 0.001).
  • Use of smokeless tobacco has increased significantly among current smokers from 3.6% in 1996 to 7.0% in 2012.
  • Use of smokeless tobacco has not changed significantly among former smokers between 1996 to 2012, but there is a significant decrease among adults who have never been smokers.

The statistics tell the story and truth of tobacco usage among Alaska Natives. It is a real issue with real consequences for ourselves and our loved ones. The information also shows the rise of e-cigarette usage.

Despite what the statistics tell us (or maybe because of them), I think it is important to have hope that we can be smoke-free. It may take a lot of help and encouragement. Resources are available and at your fingertips.

I asked friends in November – What is one thing that you would tell your younger self (or a younger tobacco user) about tobacco use? Check out their powerful responses on this previous blog post.

Remember, the New Year is a time when anything seems possible. Maybe you already have plans to quit tobacco this year. I wish you the best of luck! You can do it.

Alaska's Tobacco Quitline has a ton of resources for tobacco-user to kick the habit and other information. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or enroll online through this website.
Alaska’s Tobacco Quitline has a ton of resources for tobacco-user to kick the habit and other information. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or enroll online through this website.

Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line – 800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669)

Alaska Tobacco Prevention and Control Program

Safe and Healthy Me – Tobacco Free – State of Alaska


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0 thoughts on “Helping Ourselves to Be Tobacco-Free”

  1. Congratulations on your ‘film debut’; you are taking responsibility for pushing the word to all Alaskans, but especially to the Native peoples, that tobacco of any kind is dangerously addictive and has very negative health consequences!! Perhaps if more and more people continue to highlight this issue and push to keep it in the forefront of the local news you can make a real difference in the use of tobacco. It truly is a nasty, addictive and dangerously unhealthy habit…

  2. Thank you! We have seen a lot of the natives here in the Copper River Valley quitting using tobacco.

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