Grade 8 students Doreen Kadjuk, Jacquenita Sammurtok and Emily Ann Kanak of Victor Sammurtok school in Chesterfield Inlet took part in an anti-tobacco program in Yellowknife recently. - photo courtesy of Vickie Tanuyak
Doreen Kadjuk, Jacquenita Sammurtok and Emily Kanak travelled to Yellowknife to participate in the Building Leadership for Action in Schools (BLAST) program sponsored by the Alberta Lung Association.
Principal Peter Laracy said Victor Sammurtok was the only Nunavut school among the 17 represented at the program, which promotes non-smoking in schools and communities.
"Most people are aware of the program here in Nunavut which focuses on high school kids," said Laracy.
"But, in my opinion, once the majority of kids reach senior high they've already made up their minds on smoking, so I was looking for something aimed at younger students when I found out about BLAST, which focuses on Grade 7 to 9."
The weekend conference allowed students to look at different methods advertising tobacco companies employ to attract new smokers.
They also learned about different chemicals in tobacco smoke, and how to avoid succumbing to the various types of peer pressures that can lead to taking up the habit and getting hooked.
The girls committed to doing a number of projects when they returned to Chester.
Sammurtok said she knew a lot of kids smoked in Chester, but she was still surprised by the results of a survey they did at the school.
About 60 per cent of the students in Grade 5 to 12 took part in the survey, with about 53 per cent admitting they had tried tobacco products at least once in their life.
"About 44 per cent of the students we surveyed said they still use tobacco products on a regular basis," said Sammurtok.
"The numbers show most of the kids who try tobacco continue to use it.
"So, the best way to quit is not to start."
Laracy said it's beneficial for younger students to be involved in projects that boost their self-confidence.
He said the more programs they attend, the more likely it becomes for them to feel comfortable in taking a leadership role in their school or community.
"The only way for kids to learn how to assume responsibility and accept a leadership role is by going through the process.
"Sometimes it's frustrating for the kids and they can be intimidated by the process.
"But they gain a little more confidence each time they participate and, over a period of time, they gain the confidence in their abilities to assume a leadership role."