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Helping Canadians breathe easier

17 January 2016

Toronto -

Canadian Cancer Society volunteers and staff are fighting back against cancer during National Non-Smoking Week by working hard to help Canadians quit smoking and encouraging others not to start.

In our efforts to prevent cancers caused by smoking, the Society advocates for stronger tobacco strategies on behalf of all Canadians, funds research into smoking and quitting, and provides quit smoking resources, tips and programs.

Our fight

A priority for the Society is to advocate for a stronger federal tobacco control strategy, including modernized legislation, better funding and implementation of plain packaging regulations.

Plain packaging would prohibit brand colours, logos and graphics, eliminating the package as a mini-billboard that promotes tobacco. The size of packages would be standardized, putting an end to slim and superslim packs targeting women. Plain packaging was implemented in Australia in 2012 and has since been adopted in Ireland, France and the United Kingdom for implementation starting May 20, 2016. In Canada, the mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Minister of Health Jane Philpott identified plain packaging as a top priority.

On May 31, 2015, Nova Scotia established a world precedent by banning menthol cigarettes as part of a larger ban on flavoured tobacco. There are now 5 provinces (AB, ON, QC, NB and NS) that have adopted bans on flavoured tobacco including menthol. The Society actively advocated for these measures.

In November 2015, Quebec was the first province to adopt legislation to ban tobacco industry promotional payments to retailers.

Our research

Over the last 10 years, the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute has invested over $20 million in tobacco control research, thanks to our donors. This funding has supported 25 researchers at 14 institutes across the country.

Our researchers are leading the charge toward understanding why people start smoking and how to help them quit. A few of our recent accomplishments are as follows:

Influencing flavoured tobacco policies across Canada

Dr Steve Manske and Dr Leia Minaker from the Society-funded Propel Centre for Population Health Impact studied Canadians’ use of flavoured tobacco products, particularly among youth. They also worked with the Society, helping 5 provinces to introduce legislation to restrict or ban flavoured tobacco and the federal government to ban most flavoured mini-cigars.

Nicotine addiction in young people

Through leadership of the Nicotine Dependence in Teens project, Dr Jennifer O’Loughlin at the Centre de recherche du CHUM and her colleagues found that young adults who experienced feelings of relaxation, a rush or buzz, rapid heartbeat or dizziness when they first smoked were likely to become more physically dependent on nicotine. Understanding these factors can help inform efforts to reduce teen smoking.

A quit smoking website for men

Many programs designed to help people quit smoking take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Dr John Oliffe, collaborator Dr Joan Bottorff and their team at the University of British Columbia specifically studied how men are motivated to quit. Using this information, they developed the first quit smoking website targeted at men – QuitNowMen.ca.

Changing policy on restaurant patio smoking

Dr Michael Chaiton of the University of Toronto and the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit showed that smokers trying to quit were less likely to succeed and stay smoke-free after being exposed to tobacco smoke on a patio. This research was presented to the provincial Cessation Task Force and contributed to the evidence supporting a ban on smoking in public spaces that came into effect on January 1, 2015.

Smoking and cancer risk

  • Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of cancer deaths. About 30% of all cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use.
  • Smoking causes not only lung cancer, but at least 16 different types of cancer.
  • The number of deaths from lung cancer exceeds the combined number of deaths from the next 3 largest types of cancer deaths – colorectal, breast and prostate.

If you smoke:

The single best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. Even light smoking can cause lung damage because the effects add up over time. As soon as you quit smoking, your body begins to cleanse itself of tobacco poisons. Here’s how:

  • Oxygen levels in your blood increase and carbon monoxide levels drop within 8 hours.
  • Your senses of smell and taste begin to improve after 2 days.
  • You’ll find it easier to breathe within 2 weeks to 3 months because your lungs are working better.
  • Coughing, sinus congestion, tiredness and shortness of breath improve within 6 months.
  • Your risk of a smoking-related heart attack is reduced by half after 1 year.

Our resources

  • If you’re a smoker, take advantage of National Non-Smoking Week. Join thousands of others as they take their first steps to becoming non-smokers. It may be a difficult process, but you don’t have to do it alone. The Society has resources to help you on your journey.
  • Smokers’ Helpline is a free, confidential service for smokers. Call us if you want to quit, are thinking about quitting or have stopped smoking and need support.
  • You can call us even if you’re not ready to quit. We’re not here to judge – we’re here to help.
  • Trained quit coaches can help you develop a personalized quit plan, answer your questions about quitting and refer you to programs and services in your community.
  • When you’re ready to talk about quitting, we’re here to help. You can call the toll-free quitline number printed on every cigarette package – 1-866-366-3667. 
  • You can also get help to quit online. Smokers’ Helpline Online is an interactive, web-based service offering tips, tools and support to help with quitting smoking.
  • Our step-by-step self-help quit program, One Step at a Time, helps you analyze why you smoke and assists you in making a good plan to break from tobacco when you’re ready.
  • One Step at a Time is our series of booklets on smoking and quitting. They will help you understand why people smoke and guide you through the process – once you’re ready to quit. These free guides have been reviewed by independent experts and are based on the best available science about quitting smoking. 
  • For Smokers Who Want to Quit: One step at a time
    Information, activities and tools to help guide you through the process of quitting and support you in reaching your goal of becoming smoke-free.
  • For Smokers Who Don’t Want to Quit: One step at a time
    Information and activities to help you think about why you smoke and how it affects you and your family.
  • Help a Smoker Quit: One step at a time
    Tools and strategies to support the smoker along their quit journey.