Adapted by Kimberly Morrisseau, sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society

At the age of nine, Mark Quinn was introduced to cigarettes, and by the time he was fifteen, he was smoking regularly. Eventually, Quinn managed to quit for two years, but then a serious work accident occurred. In 2014, a faulty welding machine electrocuted Quinn, landing him in the hospital for seven days and leaving him with ongoing health issues.

To deal with the stress of this traumatic event, Quinn began smoking again. “When I was discharged from the hospital, I ran for a pack of cigarettes,” said Quinn. Eventually, the financial and health costs of smoking started to take a toll. “Six years later, it became the struggle of my life to quit.” But having quit once before, 58-year-old Quinn knew he had the strength to do it again.

In 2019, Quinn was introduced to the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) Walk or Run to Quit, a tobacco cessation program that helps individuals quit smoking while teaching them how to walk or run 5 km. Quinn’s experience with the program was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, he was introduced to another CCS program, Talk Tobacco, a free and confidential smoking and vaping cessation service for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.

Quinn connected with one of the Talk Tobacco Quit Coaches, a cessation specialist who supported him with his goal of quitting smoking. Between August 2020 and May 2021, the two spoke over the phone weekly.

“Sarah’s support was marvelous,” said Quinn, “and with her help, I’ve been smoke-free since January 2021. It’s given me more hope. I can now take a breath of fresh air or a bite of food and truly appreciate it.”

According to Alethea Kewayosh, director of Ontario Health’s Indigenous cancer care unit, “mainstream interventions do not appear to have reduced commercial tobacco use in Indigenous communities. In view of 50 years of tobacco control experience with the general population, it is unrealistic to expect a major reduction in Indigenous smoking rates without the development of community-driven, sustainable, culturally-relevant programming.”

In the development of Talk Tobacco services, Indigenous leaders, community members and healthcare providers provided input and guidance. The Talk Tobacco program provides culturally-relevant, accessible, and targeted tobacco and vaping cessation services for Indigenous communities by phone, text and live chat. Services are free, confidential and available in 16 Indigenous languages.

Commercial smoking and vaping are, on average, twice as high among Indigenous populations in Canada. For anyone looking to quit, Quinn encourages trying the Talk Tobacco program with an open mind. “It helped me reach my goals, and it was a great experience for me. I encourage others just to try it once. Listen and accept the help, and know you’re not alone.”

Thinking of quitting smoking or vaping? Contact Talk Tobacco by calling 1-833-998-8255 (TALK), texting CHANGE to 123456, emailing, visiting, or joining their Facebook
page for support and inspiration.

Kimberly Morrisseau is the senior specialist with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Talk Tobacco Program in Manitoba.