Tobacco use affects all Nunavummiut and the land around us. Laws around tobacco use are designed to protect our community members, especially children and youth. Explore this section to learn more.
Tobacco in Nunavut
European whalers regularly travelled to the Arctic in the late 17th and 18th century. When they visited, they introduced tobacco to Inuit. At that time, no one knew how bad smoking and chewing tobacco was and the effect it has one's health. Today we know tobacco use leads to addiction, illness and death.
Information from a 2016 survey in all Nunavut communities shows that about 75% of Nunavummiut use tobacco. This rate is four to five times higher than the rest of Canada.
Tobacco and the Environment
Cigarette butts are the most common litter item in the world. Cigarette butts take about 18 months to breakdown, but they take 12 years to degrade completely.
Rain and cigarettes do not mix! Rain releases a cigarette's chemicals, making them run into the ground. They end up in our bays, lakes, rivers and oceans. These chemicals can be deadly to ocean life.
Fish, seals, birds and other aquatic animals can mistake the butts for food. Animals that eat cigarette butts can get sick or die.
Social Sources of Tobacco
Receiving tobacco products (cigarettes, snuff or chewing tobacco) from anyone other than licensed tobacco retailers is considered to be a social supply or social source of tobacco.
In Nunavut, retailers cannot sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 19, yet many young people still get tobacco though social sources. Social sources of tobacco can include a young person's parents, friends, brothers or sisters.
Regardless of the age of the giver, even with a caregiver's permission, it is always against the law to give tobacco to anyone younger than 19 years old.
Pass on something better by not giving tobacco to kids.
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