Mike Courtney

I have been a resident of Nunavut since 1986 having spent the first 15 years in the Kivalliq region and the last 11 here in Iqaluit.

I grew up in a house were both my parents smoked and also smoking was accepted, you smoked on airplanes, trains, offices ever while shopping.

I started smoking when I was 14 or 15 years of age at cadet camp in BC. It was peer pressure that got me going, the big thing then was to sit around the smoking pit and look “cool.” At the time cigarettes were about $1.85 for a 20 pack. I thought I was pretty smart being able to hide it from my parents but later found out that they knew pretty well all along. Growing up in a small town of 800 people word gets around pretty quick.

Well as life went on I found myself smoking more and more, eventually getting up to 2 packs a day, 50 sticks…and that was if I was not drinking. When I was 30 years old I had my first child, we lived in a three floor apartment with no elevator and I was having troubles climbing the three flights of stairs without taking a break. We were also building a home and started paying a mortgage. My wife and I figured between the two of us we were spending about $600.00 a month on cigarettes and our Moorgate payment was $720 every two weeks. We were smoking almost one payment a month..putting that money up in smoke you can say.

I decided one day that I wanted to quick smoking and went to the nursing station to get a prescription for the patch. There they found out that I had high blood pressure, and they said that they would be worried about putting me on the patch, but through discussion we agreed to try it for one week and see how I did. Well to make a long story short, I made it the week without a cigarette and my blood pressure was still high but better so they allowed me to continue. I was supposed to be on the patch for 8 weeks but after 5 weeks I stopped.

I did really well not smoking until I had to do a trip South for a meeting, at the meeting one of our sponsors took us out for supper and that led to some drinking. During the night the sponsor handed out some small cigars which I tried and I got so sick that I had to go back to the hotel. That was the last drag I ever had of tobacco and I think I was good that I got sick or I might have started again.

I have been smoke free for almost 16 years now. But tobacco still affects my life and people around me. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and passed away in 2008 after a long courageous battle. Although the cancer was not directly linked to her smoking, I am sure it was a contributing factor.

My parents saw the benefits in my life from my quitting and finally quit smoking about 6 years ago. My mother has now been diagnosed with COPD which is directly related to her smoking. She cannot move like she use to and finds it hard to keep up with her grandchildren.

I have also lost some friends over the years to cancers related to smoking.

AS for me I am now 46 years old, although I battle a weight problem, I am very active, I play hockey 2 – 3 times a week, I try to walk each day and I can now take the stairs without huffing a puffing.

I have two teenage boys and one of my biggest fears especially living in the north is that they will start smoking. Both boys have told me they have been offered it at school. They talk about how many kids smoke in and around the school. How the teachers that smoke and students alike all rush out at break time for a puff. We keep an open dialogue in our house about the dangers and health risks associated with smoking, and I am hopefully that this will help deter my kids from that filthy habit.

I believe if I did not quit when I did there would be a better then 75% chance that I would not be here today. My kids could be orphans today…