Breaking the habit
Hamilton strong enough to go cold turkey

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Nov 13/98) - Ken Hamilton will never forget watching a night of drum dancing at Ingamo Hall in 1989.

The drummers and dancers were likely as remarkable as ever, but what stands out in the 66-year-old Inuvik resident's mind about Feb. 13, 1989, is that he could hardly breathe.

That night, he decided he would break his 44-year smoking addiction cold turkey.

"I was getting short of breath and I felt like I was fainting," he said Nov. 5 while sitting across an Ingamo Hall table from a man smoking.

"It was difficult to quit and I tried a couple of times. The first time was for 25 days in 1987."

Hamilton's common- law partner, Annie Cook, still smokes, but because Hamilton was diagnosed in June with lung cancer, she now smokes only outside their home to help eliminate the second-hand smoke Hamilton breathes in.

Hamilton says he believes he is fine now but, during the summer, he went to Edmonton for a lung operation where doctors removed part of his left lung.

And, even though Hamilton is aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke, he still goes to popular smokers' hang-outs, such as the Sunriser Cafe, instead of the smoke-free Cafe Gallery.

Many Inuvik residents will likely try to break destructive habits they have identified during Addiction Awareness Week Nov. 15 through 21.

"You can't tell anybody to quit," Hamilton says.

"They have to want to."

Lyall Robson is one area smoker who has tried everything from hypnotism to lazer treatment to help him give up the craving -- all to no avail.

The 64-year-old says some of his attempts to quit were successful for a while, but they all ended with him giving in to temptation.

"I quit drinking 16 years ago," he says.

"But smoking is the hardest habit to break."

In the NWT, smoking initiation usually starts between five and nine years of age. The NWT also has the highest smoking rate in the country.

For women, smoking during pregnancy can harm their baby because nicotine and carbon monoxide -- the two main toxins in cigarettes -- have specific effects on the fetus.

Nicotine impairs circulation between the uterus and placenta, causing narrowing of the blood vessels. Carbon monoxide binds with fetal haemoglobin, reducing the amount of oxygen to the fetus.

Combined, there is inadequate oxygen and nutrient flow to the fetus, increasing the risk of retarded fetal growth.

And many Inuvik youth, such as Jonathan Day who turns 19 on Nov. 16, say they smoke despite knowing the dangers later in life.

Day says he started smoking because of peer pressure and to fit into a group and then because he had acquired a physical addiction.