Smoker data not up to date for territories; Quitline being accessed by some

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Either pranks calls are up or more people are trying to quit smoking in the NWT this year than last.

The NWT Quitline received 196 calls between April 2018 and December 2018, compared to 167 between April 2017 and March 2018, the previous fiscal year.

Outgoing calls by “quit coaches,” who staff the hotline, which aims to help people quit smoking, sit at 55 so far this fiscal year, compared to 117 last year.

Inbound calls include a total of all calls dialing into the call centre whether they were successfully serviced, person hung up or prank called the line,” stated Damien Healy, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.

Outbound calls include calls in which messages were left.

The metric doesn’t particularly illuminate the state of smoking in the NWT, but national statistics and international phenomenon indicate that now is a time of change for smoking norms.

According to federal data last updated on Dec. 21, 15 per cent of Canadians surveyed in 2017 had tried e-cigarettes. Thirty-two per cent of former and current smokers who tried e-cigarettes reported using them as an aid to quit smoking.

A study released last week in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that those who used vaping to help quit smoking were close to twice as successful as those who used nicotine replacement therapy, when both were accompanied by behavioural support.

Vaping has been met with some concern, however. A federal Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey from 2017 reported that close to one quarter of all students in grades 7 to 12 had tried e-cigarettes.

While vaping doesn’t carry much of the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, nicotine is still an addictive substance that can alter teen brain development, according to the federal government.

While admitting it gathered only partial data from the territories, Statistics Canada reported last summer a decline in smoking country-wide.

In 2017, 16.2 per cent of Canadians reported smoking daily or occasionally, down from 17.7 per cent in 2015.

In addition to its Quitline, the GNWT offers planning aids and other resources for those looking to quit smoking cigarettes on the health department’s website.

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