Encouraging Canadians to live tobacco-free

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer recognizes National Non-Smoking Week

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Canadians, with an estimated 20,600 expected to die from the disease in 2011.[1] It is well established that tobacco use accounts for the majority of all cases of lung cancer.[2] January 15-21 is National Non-Smoking Week and during this week Canadians are reminded of the dangers of tobacco use and encouraged to quit smoking. The theme of this year’s Non-Smoking Week is “breaking up is hard to do.”

“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.  Cancer prevention is at the heart of the Partnership’s work and living a healthier lifestyle, including living tobacco-free, is an important component of cancer and chronic disease prevention. The following are examples of exciting and innovative work in this area:

  • 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 2012. Participants are encouraged to remain tobacco-free until winners are announced on April 1, 2012. More than 36,000 Ontarians participated in the 2011 challenge. Since 2006, the Driven to Quit challenge has inspired more than 165,000 attempts to quit smoking. In addition, the Canadian Cancer Society has launched Break It Off, a new digital campaign funded by Health Canada to promote tobacco cessation in six provinces across Canada (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island).
  • 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 BETTER Project is funded through the Partnership’s Coalitions Linking Action and Science for Prevention (CLASP) initiative.
  • The Pan-Canadian Early Lung Cancer Detection Study, a collaboration between the Partnership and the Terry Fox Research Institute, is evaluating the effectiveness of using questionnaires, breathing test and blood tests to identify individuals at high risk for lung cancer. It is hoped that using these tests to triage these high-risk individuals will help identify those who could be recommended for further follow-up, should screening be found to be effective.
  • The Partnership’s Prevention Policy Directory is a searchable database that houses Canadian policies and legal instruments (legislation, regulations and codes) relating to key modifiable risk factors, including tobacco consumption, for cancer and related chronic diseases. To date, there are almost 400 tobacco policies across Canada that are accessible through the directory.
  • In September 2011, new Health Canada tobacco product labelling regulations came into force. The new requirements include graphic health warnings that cover 75% of the front and back of packages and include a national “quit line” phone number and web address, plus easy-to-understand toxic emission statements.

National Non-Smoking Week is an annual public health education initiative established to educate people on the dangers of smoking and to work towards a smoke-free society.


[1] Canadian Cancer Society. Statistics at a glance: Lung cancer statistics at a glance. 2011.
[2] Health Canada. Cancer Updates: Lung Cancer in Canada. Ottawa: 1998.