Respecting Tobacco

Keep Tobacco Sacred - Traditional Tobacco Use

For thousands of years, natural tobacco has been an integral part of Aboriginal culture in many parts of British Columbia and Canada. Used in ritual, ceremony, and prayer, tobacco was considered a sacred plant with immense healing and spiritual benefits. For these reasons, the tobacco plant should be treated with great respect.

We should also be very careful not to confuse traditional tobacco and its sacred uses with commercial tobacco and the addiction epidemic we see today. When tobacco is used in a non-traditional manner, like smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco/snuff, it causes lung diseases, lung cancer, heart disease, cancers of the upper respiratory tract, and pregnancy risks. 


Traditional Tobacco Use video by Alberta Health Services


Non-Traditional Tobacco Use in BC

Why do people smoke?

One of the main reasons people smoke – and why it is so hard to stop – is the addiction to nicotine. In addition, many people have an emotional dependence.

Reasons to quit commercial tobacco

Long term commercial tobacco use can do immense damage to your body, mind, and spirit. The long list of diseases that tobacco use causes – including deadly cancers, lung and heart disease – is well known and well documented.

What many people don't know is that much of this damage can be undone by quitting tobacco. Even if you have been using commercial tobacco for many years, you can still improve your health by quitting today.

Everybody has something to gain from quitting commercial tobacco – and the benefits begin almost immediately.

FNHA's Respecting Tobacco Initiatives

Tobacco Timeout Challenge

The challenge: Quit for 24 hours, enter to win a $250 cash prize each month.

We know that most people who smoke or chew commercial tobacco want to quit, but the trouble is often finding the motivation to pick a date and go for it. Tobacco Timeout is our answer to that problem. It's a monthly contest where we challenge First Nation and Aboriginal smokers to butt out for 24hrs.

 Just like learning anything new, learning to be smoke-free takes time, it takes practice -- and it takes a little nudge sometimes. And that's what The Tobacco Timeout Challenge is all about: providing that spark to turn a wish into an action.

The challenge will take place every first Tuesday of the month. Sign up today at


Download the Tobacco Timeout posters here (PDF 10.8 MB)

Youth Respecting Tobacco

FNHA-Youth-Respecting-Tobacco-Zombies-Screenshot.jpg First Nations teens got together to do something about commercial tobacco. Learn more about the campaign h​ere.

Inside Out


Secondhand smoke is the smoke that comes from the burning end of commercial cigarettes or tobacco. It can be very harmful to you and your family's health.  When you smoke inside your home or car, the smoke gets trapped in the fabric and carpets, causing it to linger for a long time. Sometimes up to two years. This means that not only is the smoke harmful to anyone in the room at the time of smoking, but also anyone that comes into the room afterwards.

Secondhand smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, many of which are linked to lung and heart disease, ear infections, breathing problems, and weakened immune systems. Secondhand smoke also has a link to higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome for infants who are exposed.

FNHA has created an initiative called Inside Out to increase awareness of the harmful effects of second hand smoke. The initiative is designed as an information resource that can be set up at community gatherings such as health fairs and festivals, with an information booth with fun and interactive resources. For more information, or to make arrangements for Inside Out to come to your community, contact Lorraine Naziel.

Tobacco Podcast Series

Season One: Smokestack Sandra


Listen to the Smokestack Sandra series here

Exclusively premiered on Canada’s First Nations Radio

More about the Smokestack Sandra tobacco cessation podcast series.

Listen to Sandra Teegee on CBC Daybreak North

Smokestack Sandra with Kiefer Collison on CFNR.


Sandra Teegee at 23 before she began smoking (left) - Sandra Teegee today (right)

Season Two: Tobacco Nation


Tobacco Nation is hosted by Wawmeesh Hamilton, award-winning reporter and member of the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni.

Tobacco Nation is a four-part podcast series featuring candid and moving stories about tobacco. All stories are told by First Nations people living in BC and each of the four episodes of Tobacco Nation explores tobacco through a unique lens: cancer, community, tradition and youth.

The podcast series includes cameos from First Nations surgeon and academic Dr. Nadine Caron, University of British Columbia's Dr. Lee Brown, FNHA CEO Joe Gallagher, FNHA Director of Mental Wellness Patricia Vickers, and a number of other First Nations Elders and community members with compelling stories to share.

By touching on various aspects of tobacco use via personal stories, Tobacco Nation strives to begin the practice of sharing our personal experiences with tobacco in order to inform, educate and inspire one another.

Listen to Tobacco Nation via SoundCloud here.

FNHA Quitting Tobacco Product Info Sheet


More information on these products and others can be found here on the site.

In order to access the FNHA coverage, you will first need to follow these steps:

• Learn about quitting products. Gather some information by visiting Begin thinking about which type of quitting products would work best for your needs and lifestyle.
• Talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner. Make sure that the products you are interested in are right for you, and ask your doctor for a prescription. Share the FNHA Quitting Product Info Sheet with them to ensure the product and quantity you are prescribed is covered.
• Fill your prescription at a pharmacy. The FNHA covers the full cost of your prescription at the point of purchase.

Good luck on your quitting journey! If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to call our FNHA Benefits office at: 1-800-317-7878.

Quitting Commercial Tobacco Resources

Everybody has something to gain from quitting commercial tobacco – and the benefits begin almost immediately.

The benefits of quitting commercial tobacco

Time after quitting Benefits
20 minutesYour pulse and blood pressure return to normal
8 hoursYour body's oxygen levels return to normal
12 hours Carbon monoxide is cleared from your blood and your lungs start to clear out mucus
2 daysYour senses of taste and smell begin to return and will continue improving over the next few days
3 – 5 daysYour withdrawal symptoms should be getting better now. The nicotine is cleaned from your body!
2 weeks – 3 monthsYour circulation improves and your lungs start performing better
1 – 9 monthsCoughing and shortness of breath decrease
1 yearYour risk of heart disease drops to half that of a continuing smoker.
5 years Your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer drops to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker 2-5 years after quitting
10 years Your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking
15 yearsYour risk of heart disease is the same as a non-smoker

Plus, there's smelling better, looking better, feeling better and being richer! You'll also be an amazing role model and leader to your family and community.

Never Give Up  

It generally takes at least three serious attempts at quitting before a person becomes a lifetime non-smoker, and for many people it takes six or more tries. If you are not successful the first time you try to quit, don't give up. Learn from the experience and get back on track right away.

Ready to Put Smoking Behind You?

The first step toward quitting commercial tobacco for good is to decide that you want to go for it. Once you have made that decision, the next step is to make a plan.


Professional Quit Coaches

To help make a plan which is right for you and your situation, we recommend talking with a Quit Coach – a trained quitting councilor who you can talk to for free. You can talk with a Quit Coach by phone or instant chat, 24 hours a day, over at – BC's quitting resource site.

Quit Plan

More information on setting a quit date, identifying your smoking "triggers", managing cravings, and coping with withdrawal can all be found on the website. To get best use of the site, create an account (it's 100% free) and try out the Quit Plan tool – which walks you through each step of preparation you will need to quit smoking with success.


Free medication

Quit aids, such as the patch, nicotine gum, or prescription medicine (like Champix or Zyban) can double your odds of successfully quitting.  The FNHA has excellent benefits coverage for quitting products, including:

1. Nicotine Patches 

2. Nicotine Gum, Lozenges or Inhalers 

3. Prescription Medications

Additional Resources​garettes-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Run to Quit

This program is an excellent opportunity to build a solid peer-to-peer support group during one’s quitting journey

The Run to Quit program helps smokers quit by teaching them to walk or run 5km. The program provides a simple step-by-step approach that makes it easy to quit smoking and take up a new exercise program. Research has shown that walking and running can help people cope with discomfort and cravings while cutting down and quitting. There are two options for Run to Quit participants - a training program where you get support through the Running Room and smoking experts, or a 'do-it-yourself' plan where you exercise on your own and have quitting resources available to you.

The program is ten weeks long, and participants can choose between an in-store, virtual, or do-it-yourself at home option. For those that choose the do-it-yourself option, there is no associated cost. The in-store option is $50, and the virtual option is $70. The program accommodates people of all fitness levels, with the goal that each individual be able to eventually run or walk 5km. This contest is open to all tobacco users, including those that use chewing tobacco.

There is an extra incentive for those that stay smoke-free for the whole ten weeks, as they will be entered into a draw to win $1000. Want to sign up but can't find the time now? No worries! There are Winter, Spring, and Fall sessions available to those who wish to join.

For those who are interested in participating in this fantastic program, please visit the official website at: and click to register! There are also some helpful resources available to help you on your quitting journey.