TOBACCO: A CULTURAL
for adolescents and young adults
carmen daniels, editor
This manual is for the smoker seeking help in recovering from tobacco
As a smoker, you are in a battle for your life. Nicotine is one of the most
powerful and addictive substances that exists. We understand the fear and
the frustration of not being able to stop smoking. You are not alone. We
recognize that tobacco feels like a best friend and has been a tool for
your survival. We see the process of recovery as a healing journey towards
freedom where you can live in the world with a respectful relationship
towards the sacred use of tobacco. This battle is a challenge to be dealt with
one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, all in the context
of our relationship with ourselves, others and a power greater than ourselves.
Cultural traditions help us find our way.
Our approach is developed specifically for those who seek a deeper under-
standing of the nature of their own addiction and who require concentrated,
informed, long-term support. This manual has been designed to help those
who want to make changes in their lives and become emotionally independent
of smoking. Throughout this manual the term “smoking” is used in order to
differentiate the unhealthy use of tobacco from the spiritual uses of tobacco.
Therefore, the term “smoking” must also include other unhealthy forms of
tobacco use such as snuff and chewing tobacco.
This manual provides practical guidance on how to develop your own
effective recovery plan. It is built on a clear perspective as to what leads
people into addiction and how they recover by using the addiction model
as a framework. This manual is for you. Use it in your own way. Adapt it to
suit your own needs, your band’s, your community’s. Each section of the
manual is designed to help you in a different aspect of your recovery.
Included with this manual is a second package or workbook which pro-
vides an extensive array of tools and resources that can support you
in your recovery. This package is called the Medicine Bag. Again, this
resource is for you. Use it in your own way. Adapt it to suit your own
needs. Each section of the Medicine Bag deals with the traditional holistic
healing approach involving the four aspects to our nature; the physical,
the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual. Individually each of these
aspects will assist with the process of recovering from tobacco addiction.
Collectively, they guide us towards the development of a healthy, well-
It is intended that both documents be used together. This program
has been designed so that each, the Medicine bag and this manual,
complement and rely on the other. They have been produced as two
separate documents for ease of use.
Murray Kelly and Kendra Smith
16 February 2001
This project began in the summer of 1999. Our goal was to create
a program to help Aboriginal youth quit smoking if they already were
addicted to nicotine and not to start if they were still non-smokers. This
manual you are reading is the result of the first half of our efforts.
This manual and the Medicine Bag build on the groundwork laid by
Murray Kelly and Kendra Smith at the Smokers’ Treatment Centre in
Ottawa and also their groundbreaking work with the Nechi Institute in
Edmonton. Their collaboration with Nechi resulted in a stop smoking
program that considered the traditional role of tobacco in First Nations
culture. Our adaptation of that work once again considers tobacco abuse in
a cultural milleau and relates these issues and techniques to Aboriginal youth.
In fact our production team were all either Métis or First Nations and in their
20s. This manual was created by Aboriginal youth, for Aboriginal youth.
We would also like to acknowledge the First Nations and Métis bias of this
document. The Inuit people that we talked to told us that tobacco has few
traditional uses in their culture although it has been traded for hundreds of
years. Yet tobacco abuse in Inuit communities is as high, if not higher, than
in other communities. It is our hope that our Inuit readers will take what they
can use from this manual, despite its limitations.
This was also the first book that any of us had ever worked on, so there
are bound to be errors. We would appreciate any feedback you have to give.
We would also love to hear if this manual helped you stop abusing tobacco.
Good luck in your journey.
Aboriginal Youth Network