Encouraging and supporting Canadians to live tobacco-free

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer recognizes National Non-Smoking Week

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada, with an estimated 24,000 Canadians being diagnosed with and 20,600 who will die from the disease in 2010.1  It is well established that tobacco use accounts for the majority of all cases of lung cancer.2 January 16-22 is National Non-Smoking Week and during this week Canadians are reminded of the dangers of tobacco use and encouraged to quit smoking.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and this week is a great chance for all Canadians to quit smoking or to support friends, family members and colleagues who are making the important decision to quit,” said Dr. Heather Bryant, Vice-President of Cancer Control at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.

Tobacco use also contributes to a number of other cancers including cancers of the larynx, oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, and bladder. According to statistics in a recent Partnership report, Cancer control snapshot: Smoking and lung cancer in Canada, the smoking rate for those 45 and older has declined only about 3% from 1999 to 2009 and smoking cessation rates among Canadians in this age group have worsened in recent years. This is despite evidence showing that quitting smoking even at middle age considerably reduces the risk of death from lung cancer.3

Cancer prevention is at the heart of the Partnership’s work and it is known that a large proportion of chronic diseases is known to be preventable through healthier lifestyles including living a tobacco-free lifestyle. Some examples of exciting and innovative work in this area include:

  • The Canadian Cancer Society – Ontario Division’s Driven to Quit Challenge launched earlier this month offering prizes to Ontarians who are tobacco-free for the month of March 2011. Participants are encouraged to remain tobacco-free until winners are announced on April 1, 2011. To date approximately 28,000 Ontarians have participated in the 2010 challenge and more than 130,000 participants have attempted to quit since 2006.
  • The Partnership’s BETTER Project is an initiative to increase prevention and screening for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes in primary care physicians’ offices in Alberta and Ontario. The initiative combines electronic medical records with office-based prevention facilitators to help doctors identify patients who could benefit from screening, prescribe lifestyle changes, track results and follow up regularly.
  • The Early Lung Cancer Detection Study, a collaboration between the Partnership and the Terry Fox Research Institute, is evaluating the effectiveness of using questionnaires, breathing and blood tests to identify individuals at high-risk for lung cancer. By using these tests to triage high-risk individuals, the hope is to help identify those who could be recommended for further follow up, should CT screening be found to be effective.
  • The Federal government recently announced new cigarette package health warnings that will highlight tobacco-related diseases, feature improved literacy levels, and a variety of styles and approaches including testimonials, larger health warning messages and a social marketing campaign to appeal to different age groups. The new packages will also contain a toll-free quit number and a web address.

National Non-Smoking week is an annual public health education initiative established to educate people on the dangers of smoking and work towards a smoke-free society. The theme of this year’s Non-Smoking Week is “there are hundreds of reasons to quit” – what’s yours?”. For more information on National Non-Smoking Week, visit www.nnsw.ca.

Learn more about smoking and lung cancer in Canada


Canadian Cancer Society. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2010. Toronto, 2010.

2 Health Canada. Cancer Updates: Lung Cancer in Canada. Ottawa, 1998.

Peto R, Darby S, Deo H, Silcocks P, Whitley E, Doll R. Smoking, smoking cessation, and lung cancer in the UK since 1950: combination of national statistics with two case-control studies. BMJ. Aug 5 2000;321(7257):323-329