Healthy Living in the North

Teachers and parents can support children to avoid tobacco use!

If kids didn’t start smoking, the problematic use of tobacco would be a thing of the past before the end of this century!

Kids learn from an early age that tobacco is bad for their health yet every day there are young people in Canada taking their first puffs. Most smokers start using tobacco before their 19th birthday, at an average age of 13. It’s obvious that education about the harmful effects of cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco is not enough to stop kids from trying tobacco.

If you’re a teacher, maybe some of your students started smoking over the summer and they’re now suffering withdrawal in your classroom!

Some teens are persuaded to try tobacco by their peers if they are more influenced by this group than their parents. They may not be aware that the first puffs of a cigarette or a flavoured cigar may lead to a lifetime of nicotine addiction. Three out of four young smokers will continue to smoke into adulthood.

How can you support children and youth in your community to avoid tobacco use?

How can you support children and youth in your community to avoid tobacco use?

It only takes a few cigarettes to make changes in the teenage brain, leading to cravings and continued use of tobacco. Even though many teens do not smoke daily, they still have difficulty quitting.

Teachers and parents can support children to avoid tobacco use with conversations about:

You have a role in supporting a tobacco free community! Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial use of smoke, tobacco and other legal sacred plants and recognizes the benefits of traditional and spiritual uses can outweigh the potential harms.

For more info, check out QuitNow or email

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.


Teachers! Don’t just blow smoke – Cut through the smoke screen!

Outside of school building with sign that says "Student Drop Off Ahead"

With kids back in school, teachers are uniquely placed to prevent smoking amongst youth. Reg shares some great tips for teachers!

While the prospect of youth starting to smoke is concerning, there’s some great news from the 2012-13 Youth Smoking Survey. The percentage of Canadian youth who currently smoke and the percentage of youth in British Columbia who have ever tried a cigarette have both declined.

Unfortunately, some youth will start using tobacco. Teachers play an important role in educating students about the harmful effects of tobacco use.

If you’re a teacher, when you talk about tobacco, remember the following:

  • Start talking about tobacco early in the school year. Don’t wait until it becomes a problem on the school grounds before addressing it. Ensure that your school has a clear policy on tobacco and that it’s clearly communicated.
  • Speak to your students as intelligent people who can make good decisions. Don’t speak down to them or try to intimidate them into not using tobacco – rather than starting a genuine conversation around tobacco, this is more likely to create barriers.
  • Don’t make assumptions about how much your students know about tobacco. Most students are likely aware that tobacco is harmful, but might underestimate the health risks or long-term consequences of tobacco use. Be creative and engage your students in exploring the harms of tobacco use. Use a biology class to look at what using tobacco does to the body. Explore other alternatives for dealing with things like peer pressure or stress as part of a social studies class.

According to the Youth Smoking Survey, the average age a young person tries a cigarette is 13.6 years old. As a teacher, you are at the right place and in the right time to address it!

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.


Share your story!

We want to highlight the lasting impact of teachers and coaches on the health and wellness of northerners by sharing stories about the positive influence of school experiences, and WE NEED YOUR HELP! Will you share your story?

These stories will be highlighted in a new resource from the Every Child and Coach a Winner (ECCAW) program, which aims to support the health and wellness of children in schools across the north. ECCAW equips ‘coaches’ with key health messages to engage children in their own health, preparing them to become healthy, responsible adults while supporting teachers to create a healthy school.

Your story, however brief, serves as an important reminder about the role of school staff, educators and coaches in the health and wellness of young people.

As an example, here’s what George Wiens in Dawson Creek says:

“As a grade nine student, I had a very dynamic English teacher. It was the first time I had experienced interactive study sessions, where I leaned philosophy and history intertwined and tied to the literature from the curriculum. After school our English teacher would take a group of us interested students to the tennis courts where he taught us how to play while continuing to learn and discuss English topics. He set different expectations for learning. We were challenged to think and act independently, to pull together why we thought and did things and to defend the actions we took. It was an incredible mentoring process that went beyond the normal hours and expectations of a classroom. I don’t think he would have called himself a coach, but he was coaching in a different way, challenging us as students and young adults. This is an experience that remains vivid and impactful for me.”

Having your voice and the stories of our colleagues and friends will strengthen this initiative and ensure that northern voices are represented in this resource.

Email your story to or post it as a comment on this post.

More info: I previously shared a blog post that describes more about ECCAW here:

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.


Was your health or lifestyle positively influenced by a school experience?

Young Julia

Julia remembers being positively influenced by her field hockey coach when she was a young girl – share your story!

In talking with colleagues and friends about Every Child and Coach a Winner (ECCAW), an initiative I’m involved in developing at Northern Health (more to come about the initiative in a bit!), I’ve been surprised by how many vivid memories people have of their teachers and coaches – what they said or how their actions positively impacted health and lifestyle, at the time and into the future.

It might be a coach, at the final game of a senior athlete’s career that spoke inspirationally about finding activity you enjoy beyond your high school sports career, or a school that created a supportive environment for phys-ed by ensuring safe and comfortable showering and changing spaces. The memory that continues to come to mind for me is of a high school coach’s support off the field. It was a simple thing – my field hockey coach spoke well of me and advocated on my behalf to a fellow teacher. It was hearing that she was in my corner, had faith in me, and cared enough to look out for me that continues to this day to resonate with me.

Schools are often a setting where our community comes together. From a population health perspective, the school setting is an important place for Northern Health to work in a spirit of collaboration and innovation. The population health approach is a foundational principle of the ECCAW initiative, which is what we’re developing to bring “the Northern way of caring” to schools in our region.

Research consistently affirms that health and education are connected. Children and youth can achieve their highest potential when their physical, mental, intellectual and emotional health is supported; and in turn, learning has a positive influence on student’s health (Healthy Schools BC, 2011).

This is where ECCAW comes in. We recognize that coaching is a way of being and that school staff are important coaches for children and youth. We are working in collaboration, developing a resource to support school staff in building healthy northern schools. We focus on six main health topics: healthy eating, active living, injury prevention, tobacco use, problematic substance use and mental wellness; we want to equip teachers, coaches and schools with the key messages and encourage schools to think about how they can build healthy school environments. This project is coming at an important time for northern B.C. as we gear up for the 2015 Canada Winter Games and we hope this project will help to create a health legacy after the Games!

Now, we’d like your help. We would like to hear stories from northern people about how their school, teacher, activity leader or sports coach supported health in these areas.

Do you have a memorable moment from your school years where something your school or a school staff member said or did positively impacted your health or lifestyle?

We’d like to hear from you! The responses we receive will be incorporated into the ECCAW resource and will be important illustrations of the impact of schools on the short- and long-term health, lifestyle and well-being of students.

Comment below or email Julia at before August 31, 2013.

For more information on Comprehensive School Health, visit Healthy Schools BC’s website.

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.