Out There


Posted in grim stuff by Pete on May 9, 2008

Quoting from our local paper on 4-15-08, the Delta Discovery says:

Of all the adults in western Alaska, 52% use spit tobacco, or iqmik. That is more than half the population of the region. 42% smoke. Compare that to the statewide average of 6% for spit tobacco and 27% for smoking.
“This area has the highest number of smokeless tobacco users than the rest of Alaska and the rest of the country. They are both high. Over half of our population are users,” said Carrie Enoch, the Coordinator/Nicotine Dependence Counselor for the Yukon Health Kuskokwim Corporation.
Iqmik is a mixture of tobacco leaves, willow ash, or punk ash fungus, known as araq. The araq acts as a conductor to channel the nicotine from the tobacco leaves straight into the body at a pulsing rate of 99-100%. Even the user rate among pregnant women in western Alaska is high – 57%. Effects of tobacco use while pregnant include a higher risk of respiratory infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia, coughing, wheezing, and excess phlegm. Other effects include smaller rates of lung function and an increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.”

While she compares Western AK tobacco usage with the rest of the state, a comparison to the nation is even more appalling. What’s more, I’d be interested in stats looking only at natives. Bethel has a significant (majority?) non-native population that I’m sure chews at rates closer to the national average, pulling our regional figure down. I know that here in Kasigluk it seems like virtually all adults use it. I don’t write this to blame someone in particular, or to ask for a handout. Just to call for change. I’ve got a similar post on alcohol, something I wrote a long time ago, that I’ll put up one of these days.

One Response

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  1. mpb said, on May 9, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Keep in mind the figures are for adults. A lot of children and infants are fed ikmik in some communities, I think because of sharing etiquette (and the nicotine withdrawal is hard for a parent to resist). The tobacco states still have high rates of usage (averages for the US and the state are misleading, as you suggest, because of the intra-variability).

    (Edwardians used to use laudenum, an opiate, and “sugar teats” to quiet youngsters. Lollies or “barley sugars” are still used to quiet youngsters in New Zealand and parts of the US.)

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