Alpine Canada Alpin is using some of its top young skiers to promote a new national anti-smoking campaign.
The program, which is called Champions Don't Smoke.... They Kick Butt, targets youth through positive young role models.
Some of the athletes from the Canadian Alpine Ski Team who are a part of the campaign are world junior downhill bronze medallist Kelly Vanderbeek (18), and Canadian downhill champions Erik Guay (20) and Anne-Marie Lefrancois (25).
"Basically these athletes on our teams are in such tremendous physical condition, smoking would just be contrary to their training," said Chris Welner, manager of communications and public relations at ACA.
"It would undo all the things that they are trying to do."
Medical Health Officer for the Sea to Sky corridor Dr. Paul Martiquet is hopeful this campaign can change some of the alarming statistics among teens and young adults and their relationship with tobacco.
Sixty per cent of smokers in the Sea to Sky corridor are under 24 years old.
"I would have thought that with the active lifestyle, people wouldn't get sucked into that kind of mentality but unfortunately that's not true," said Martiquet.
Despite outdoor active living, the statistics here are on par with the rest of the province.
About one quarter of the population smokes.
Seventeen per cent are between ages 12 and 18. Forty-four per cent are between ages 19 and 24.
This is the segment of the population that Martiquet is most concerned about, especially young women in those age groups who tend to be smoking more than their male counterparts.
"I see young women being presented with role models, especially from Hollywood, that influence smoking," said Martiquet.
"And also the advertisements that we see in magazines that have women smoking just present the glamour part of it without the real truth."
The truth is that in Canada smoking is the most important cause of preventable illness, disability and premature death.
In 1996, smoking prematurely killed three time more Canadians that car accidents, suicides, drug abuse, murder and AIDS combined.
The risk of premature death is more than double among Canadian men and almost double among Canadian women who begin smoking by age 15, compared with non-smokers.
"It's one thing for a professional to stand up and say 'don't smoke' but when you have the Alpine Ski Team, who are role models that kids can relate to, stand up and say that, thats something that kids can understand," said Martiquet.
"We're learning that we have to present the facts but they also have to be presented by the role models that (youth) can believe in."
The ski team travels throughout the world competing in different competitions at relatively young ages.
"They are growing up around the world now," said Welner. "They have an awful lot of choices to make in their own lives."
He hopes that their choice not to smoke will be an inspiration to all youth.
ACA is having a contest this month for school children from Grades 1 to 11. The organization is asking for writing (maximum 250 words) or artwork on one of the following topics:
Tips: Share ideas about how to avoid ever smoking in the first place.
Tricks: For those who have started to smoke, give advice on quitting.
Tick-offs: Thoughts about tobacco advertising, the industry or smoking in general.
Entries are due on April 30 and contestants have the chance to win CAST merchandise. Information is available on the CAST Web site, www.canski.org
Martiquet calls the anti-smoking campaign and CAST the "perfect match up."
"I think what we have to do is we have to start young in terms of education efforts," he said.
Martiquet is scheduled to speak before Whistler council on May 6 to ask for a bylaw banning smoking in all indoor public spaces in the municipality.