Tobacco Use Kills 37,000 Canadians Every Year

January 16 - 22 is National Non-Smoking Week (NNSW) 2011

OTTAWA, Jan. 20 /CNW/ - Recently, a team of British researchers mapped the DNA mutations in skin and lung cancer. For lung cancer, they found almost 23,000 mutations (or one mutation for every 15 cigarettes smoked). "This level of cellular damage is staggering. Equally shocking is that tobacco use costs more to the Canadian health care system and economy than it brings into provincial and national coffers in terms of tax revenue," says Dr Jim Morris, member of the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control (CCTC) Board of Directors.

With its devastating health effects, tobacco use remains the most significant cause of preventable disease, disability, and premature death in Canada, responsible for more than 37,000 deaths every year. Tobacco use can cause or exacerbate cancers, heart and lung disease, stroke, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Tobacco use has been linked to the development of gangrene and visual impairment

Held towards the end of January in order to help support the many individuals who make a New Year's resolution to improve their life and the life of their loved ones by choosing to quit, NNSW is also an opportune time to ask ourselves as a society why so many people still smoke and, equally importantly, what can we do to help?

Graphic Health Warnings

One of the easiest things for us to do today is to ensure new graphic health warnings for cigarette packages are implemented quickly. When it comes to health warnings, bigger is definitely better. Graphic warnings covering 75% or more of the package have been demonstrated to be highly effective in encouraging spontaneous quits and discouraging youth from initiation. When weighed against how difficult it can be for someone to quit smoking, investments in any proven strategy that prevents people from taking up smoking or helps them stay quit, makes economic sense for everyone but the tobacco industry.

In fact, the tobacco industry and its many front groups would have Canadians believe that programs that address individual behaviour are far more likely to work. This is simply not the case. Even a cursory review of credible scientific reviews demonstrates that the most effective tobacco control interventions are population-based and not focussed on an individual's behaviour. The scientific consensus on this point is simply overwhelming. 

"After six years in development, the CCTC is pleased that it can finally applaud the federal government for announcing new health warnings, we call upon the public and all those working in the public health sector to continue advocating for the most effective new warnings and to be vigilant about this issue until we see the new warnings rolling off the assembly line", said Dr Morris. The tobacco industry does not want to see these new regulations enacted and have already begun their offensive. The industry has released communications in the past three weeks designed to frame public health policy in a "this or that" paradigm. The tobacco industry would also have Canadians believe that contraband is the overwhelming problem with tobacco and that Health Canada should focus exclusively on this issue. Again, research has shown that multi-pronged approaches are more effective than single focused ones.

NNSW has been observed for more than 30 years and is one of the longest running and most important events in the CCTC's ongoing public education efforts regarding the consequences of tobacco use. Its goals are:

  • to educate Canadians about the dangers of smoking;
  • to prevent people who do not smoke from beginning to smoke and becoming addicted to tobacco;
  • to help people quit smoking;
  • to promote the right of individuals to breathe air unpolluted by tobacco smoke;
  • to denormalize the tobacco industry, tobacco industry marketing practices, tobacco products, and tobacco use; and
  • to assist in the attainment of a smoke-free society in Canada.

For more information about NNSW please visit

Sources :

Stanbrook, Matthew; Hébert, Paul C.
The federal government's senseless policy change on tobacco warning labels
[ressource électronique] = JAMC : Journal de l'Association médicale canadienne
182(18): 14 décembre 2010, 1939-1940.

Galloway, G. Ottawa met with cigarette maker months before postponing bigger warning labels
The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 9 décembre 2010.

Tobacco lobbying preceded label retreat

Galloway G. Federal tobacco strategy turns from scary labels to stopping contraband.
The Globe and Mail [Toronto], 28 septembre 2010.


For further information:

Robert Walsh
Executive Director
Canadian Council for Tobacco Control
613 567-3050

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