June 14, 2021
Helping patients with cancer to quit smoking
Smoking cessation: a critical part of cancer treatment
Commercial tobacco use* is the leading preventable cause of cancer in Canada. Patients who continue to smoke after a cancer diagnosis have worse treatment outcomes, including an increased risk of cancer recurrence and death.1
Continued smoking increases the cost of additional cancer treatments by an average of $4,800 to $7,200 for each patient who smokes. Costs are even higher when the treatment costs of other tobacco-related health conditions are considered.2
Smoking cessation increases the effectiveness of patients’ cancer treatment, lowers their risk of dying by approximately 40% and results in $50-$74 million in cost savings for every 5% of patients with cancer who quit smoking.1,2
Progress in integrating smoking cessation into cancer care
Excellent progress is being made across Canada to integrate comprehensive smoking cessation supports into cancer care settings. Patients with cancer are screened for tobacco use, advised of the benefits of quitting, and, depending on the jurisdiction, offered smoking cessation support in the cancer care setting and/or referred to a community program such as a quitline. Many provinces and territories are also partnering with First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations and communities to expand the availability of culturally appropriate smoking cessation supports.
The Partnership is supporting this work through its Pan-Canadian Tobacco Cessation and Cancer Care Network, the publication of an evidence-based smoking cessation in cancer care Action Framework, and funding for smoking cessation projects in all provinces and territories.
The goal is to provide smoking cessation in all cancer care settings by 2022, make progress towards the priorities of the 2019-2029 Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control and move us closer to Health Canada’s goal of reducing tobacco use to less than 5 percent by 2035. This report demonstrates the progress that has been made in Canada and in the provinces and territories to help patients with cancer to quit smoking.
Virtual models of smoking cessation during the COVID-19 pandemic
Since the pandemic started, many provinces and territories have shifted to provide mailing of smoking cessation medications, virtual counselling, free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and virtual modules for health professionals and patients. With in-person appointments for patients with cancer down due to COVID-19, the Partnership has worked with partners to maintain smoking cessation supports.
*In this document, tobacco refers to commercial tobacco products, not traditional or sacred tobacco. Traditional or sacred tobacco is used by some First Nations or Métis communities in ceremonial or sacred rituals for healing and purifying.
1 – National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US). The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services; 2014 Jan. 943 p.
2 – Iragorri N, Essue B, Timmings C, Keen D, Bryant H, Warren GW. The cost of failed first-line cancer treatment related to continued smoking in Canada. Current Oncology. 2020;27(6).