The smoking man
Bryant spreads the gospel about the dangers of smoking to Yellowknifers

Darren Campbell
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 25/98) - Just the facts ma'am. Just the facts. That is what Dr. Simon Bryant gave Yellowknifers this week during his visit to the city.

The Calgary-based doctor, author and anti-smoking advocate spent two days speaking to students, health officials, hospital staff, and anyone else who would listen about the evils of smoking.

But Bryant said he doesn't preach to people to stop smoking. That style of teaching never works.

"I try to avoid the word 'should'," said Bryant. "I try to present the facts and let people decide for themselves."

And some of those facts are pretty serious. Bryant points out that smoking is the cause of 20 per cent of all deaths in North America. Also, 75 per cent of all cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking.

And if you don't think this is an issue in the Northwest Territories -- think again. The latest Statistics Canada figures show the NWT has lung cancer rates of 132 cases per 100,000 population among men and 69.2 cases among women.

Nationally, there are 89 cases per 100,000 among men and 43 for women.

Bryant, a former smoker, said he has mixed emotions about his first trip to Yellowknife.

"I'm both delighted and saddened to be invited here," said Bryant.

"I'm saddened to know how widespread a problem smoking is here."

In hopes of doing something about that problem, Bryant has spent the past few years speaking out all over the world on the subject. In his talks, he explains what smokers and non-smokers need to know about quitting.

He noted that the main reason people smoke is because of the nicotine in cigarettes. But because the physical side effects of nicotine withdrawal last only two to three weeks, quitting isn't always the problem. The real problem is keeping them smoke-free.

Beyond that period, Bryant said cravings are entirely based on psychological factors.

But in order for people to stay off the smokes they need support. That support includes getting trained people to counsel and help them. It also includes subsidizing aids that help people quit smoking, and a offering a public education campaign.

All in all, Bryant said if smokers know how many little-known health problems are related to smoking, such as back pain and male impotence, they might quit. And they will be glad when they do.

"I've never met anybody who ever regretted quitting smoking," said Bryant.