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Expensive habit

John Thompson
Northern News Services

Wekweti (Feb 21/05) - When it's added up, there's a lot of value in those cancer sticks.

Students of Wekweti have calculated the cost of being a smoker in their community: $1,781.20 a person, according to their count.

"It's a lot of money for kids who don't have a job yet," said Tomiko Robson, who teaches at Alexis Arrowmaker school. "I'm always surprised how much it comes up."

She said her class of 12, which spans grades 4-9, decided to poll the community of about 120 during National Anti-Smoking week in late January.

But their interests were first stirred by Alfred Moses, tobacco co-ordinator for the Department of Health and Social Services, who visited before Christmas break to speak about the health risks posed by tobacco and to show a stirring video about a cancer survivor.

"There were quite a few teary eyes in the room after the video," says Robson.

Interest spread through the small community when students entered the band office with surveys in hand.

They later visited the store and learning centre, and as Robson says with a laugh, "There's really not that much else here."

Instead of going toward cigarettes, students also came up with other ways to spend the money: clothes and groceries were suggested.

One optimistic student was keen on buying a Ski-Doo with the found money.

The class then put posters up around Wekweti to announce their findings.

"They're learning and putting it back into the community," Robson says.