BACKGROUND: Smoking-related illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer, are common in Greenland. Factors such as age, gender, cigarette use, restricted smoking at home and socio-economic determinants are well-known predictors for smoking and smoking cessation. In 2005, 66% of the adult population in were Greenland smokers, despite widespread smoking cessation campaigns. It is therefore imperative to identify the factors that influence the low levels of smoking cessation to be able to offer cessation interventions of high quality.\n\nAIM: To develop knowledge about how smoking forms an incorporated part of a social and cultural context in the daily lives of unskilled residents of a small town in northern Greenland.\n\nDESIGN: An ethnographic field study was carried out in 2010, including participant observation, informal conversation with health professionals and semi-structured interviews with 4 smokers (2 women and 2 men). Data were analysed with a phenomenological hermeneutic approach.\n\nRESULTS: All informants were daily smokers. During work hours, they smoked fewer cigarettes due to control policy as well as having something to do. At home, they smoke more during leisure time. Having time on one's hands can be a factor in smokers remaining as smokers. It appears that smokers seem to consider themselves to be stigmatised. This may be one reason for wanting to stop smoking. Smokers ask how to quit and also ask for help to give up smoking with regard to medical treatment for withdrawal symptoms. Serious illness and pregnancy both appear to be triggers to consider giving up smoking. Severe withdrawal symptoms and lack of knowledge about how to give up smoking are barriers to participants achieving their goal.\n\nCONCLUSION: Prevention initiatives should be targeted at all smokers and a smoking cessation service should be developed, where smokers are supervised and receive medical treatment for withdrawal symptoms.