Canada - half of smokers have tried to quit..

July 20, 2009 - In Canada smoking has been described as the leading preventable cause of disease and death , contributing to 37,000 deaths in this country each year.

A new report by Statistics Canada, based on 2006 data, indicates almost half of the smokers surveyed tried to butt out in the previous 12 months, and one-third reported intentions to quit in the next month. “Smokers go through very distinct stages when they're trying to quit, so the plan to do it in the near future is really an important step to take, compared with those who have no plans at all to quit within the near future or ever. So that's good,” said Margot Shields, one of the study authors. A senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society agreed.

Almost one in five Canadians aged 15 or older were smokers in the year the data were collected. Three-quarters of current smokers had seen a doctor in the previous year, and half of those said a doctor had advised them to reduce or quit smoking. Younger smokers were less likely to get the advice to quit.

Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, was concerned that younger smokers are not getting enough advice. “What can we do to ensure that physicians are alert to the fact that young patients may be smoking?” she asked. “They may not be telling the physician, right? Young people lie to their doctor or physicians don't think to ask.”

Of the smokers who tried to quit, the report showed that 48 per cent had used at least one pharmaceutical aid. One-third used a nicotine patch, 22 per cent used nicotine gum and 13 per cent used other pharmaceutical-based cessation aids.

Ms. Shields said this is important because previous research has found that smokers who use a formal cessation aid are less likely to relapse compared with those who try to quit on their own. Some provinces have removed their sales tax on smoking cessation products and Quebec has a substantial subsidy.

As for other stop-smoking aids, he said toll-free quit lines exist in all provinces. “We could improve the awareness of those toll-free quit lines to generate more calls.” Ms. Callard agreed that more can be done to help persuade smokers to stop for good. She suggested that health warning messages on Canadian cigarette packages are stale, and the tips to help quit that are printed on the inside need to be revamped.

Reference: Half of smokers have tried to quit, Anne-Marie Tobin, The Globe and Mail, 7/15/2009.