An Exploration of Smoking Cessation and Prevention Interventions for Aboriginal Youth

An Excerpt



Jennifer Valentine is a member of the Missanabie Cree First Nation. She has an undergraduate degree in Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia and is currently a physiotherapy student there. She is interested in working with Aboriginal people, in a participatory manner, in the area of health research. This study, sponsored by the University of Alberta’s ACADRE program, provided her with her first opportunity to participate in Aboriginal health research.

The purpose of this study was to use participatory research with Aboriginal adolescent community members to investigate issues of concern in the area of adolescent smoking cessation and prevention. The goal was to create a process for building capacity within Aboriginal communities for members to engage in relevant, community-based research.
Under the supervision of Dr. Dennis Wardman and Dr. Meena Dewar, Jennifer was involved in all aspects of the research including conducting a literature review on Aboriginal adolescent tobacco use, leading focus groups with Aboriginal adolescents, analyzing the data, and writing a final report.

In this study, focus groups, set up with the dynamic of talking circles, were the primary method of data gathering. This allowed rich narrative data to be expressed by those involved in the study. Focus groups attempt to understand why a particular phenomenon is occurring. The Aboriginal oral tradition of storytelling for the preservation of history and sharing of knowledge made focus groups an appropriate method.

The weaknesses of focus groups include the small sample sizes and the difficulty in generalizing these findings to other populations of Aboriginal adolescents. This was an exploratory study intended to provide a forum for Aboriginal adolescents to voice their needs and concerns in regards to smoking and to create dialogue among community members, health care professionals and researchers concerned with issues surrounding Aboriginal adolescent smoking cessation and prevention. Useful next steps, not undertaken here, would be to examine the findings in greater detail, increase the number of adolescents involved and compare results in different Aboriginal communities.


More than 45,000 people will die prematurely this year in Canada due to tobacco use. In British Columbia alone there are nearly 6,000 smoking-related deaths every year. Tobacco use is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, cancers including those of the lung, oral cavity, urinary tract and cervix, respiratory diseases and increased risks associated with pregnancy outcomes such as low birth rates ( 2001).

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