Canada is one step closer to becoming a smoke-free society, according to the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS) results for 2001. The latest results from CTUMS for the full year 2001 confirm that smoking rates continue to drop in Canada.
The survey reveals that 5.4 million Canadians, or 22 percent of the population aged 15 years and older, were smokers in the year 2001. Three full years of data have now been collected by CTUMS, in collection since February 1999. Approximately 24% of men aged 15 and over were smokers, slightly higher than the proportion of women (20%).
Although consistently lower than that of the early eighties, current smoking prevalence for teens aged 15-19 rose in the early nineties and has generally stabilized since 1994 at close to the 1985 rate (27%). Encouragingly, smoking rates for youth have begun to decrease in recent years, (from 28% in CTUMS 1999, to 26% in the first half of 2000, at 25% by the end of 2000, then at 23% for the first half of 2001), and results seen in the full year data for 2001 continue to support this trend: 22.5% of teens aged 15-19 reported themselves as current smokers in 2001*. This amounts to 24% of teen girls compared with 21% of teen boys.
Young adults aged 20-24 still have the highest smoking rate of any age group, at 32%. The smoking rate for males aged 20-24, which was at 41% in 1985, was at 35% in 2001. In 1985, the rate for 20-24 year old females was even higher than that for males, at 45%. Encouragingly, and down slightly (but not significantly) from recent trends, 29% of women in this age group reported that they smoked in 2001.
Not only are fewer Canadians smoking than two decades ago, they are smoking less. In 1985, daily smokers consumed an average of 20.6 cigarettes per day. Since then, the number of cigarettes smoked has been gradually but steadily declining to the current amount of 16.2 cigarettes per day reported for 2001. CTUMS 2001 confirmed that men continue to smoke more per day than women: 17.1 cigarettes per day for males compared to 15 for females.
CTUMS measures smoking behaviour provincially as well as nationally. British Columbia again reported the lowest prevalence for current smokers 15 years and older, at 17%, while Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland-Labrador reported the highest prevalence, at 26%. Analysis of CTUMS 2001 indicated that, for daily smokers, there was a difference in cigarette consumption provincially ranging from a low of 14.6 in British Columbia per day to a high of 17.6 per day in New Brunswick.
The percentage of ex-smokers continues to grow. In 2001, 24% of the population 15 years and older, or about 5.9 million people, reported that they had quit. For several years now, there have been more former smokers than current smokers. This phenomenon reinforces that tobacco control measures in the past decade, by all levels of government, have been instrumental in reducing tobacco consumption by Canadians. These measures include: media campaigns aimed at increasing the awareness of health risks on the part of smokers leading to more of them quitting, decreasing access by minors to cigarettes, increasing restrictions on public smoking, increasing public education through larger and more graphic health warnings, restricting sponsorship promotion and greater efforts at all levels to educate and inform youth and adults about the risks of exposure to tobacco smoke.
New questions were added in the second half of 2001, conducted between July and December 2001, on methods used to quit, number of quit attempts before finally succeeding, number of quit attempts lasting at least one week, whether smokers were given advice to quit by a health care professional, reasons for beginning to smoke again after stopping, number of cigarettes smoked at time of quitting, reasons for switching from daily to occasional smoking, opinions on smoking in bars and restaurants, and new questions on perceived attitudes towards light and mild descriptors on tobacco packages.
According to the data, quitting is difficult. Results for the second half of 2001 for CTUMS show that while 54% of former smokers claim to have succeeded quitting smoking in only one attempt, another 27% took 2-3 attempts and 19% claim that it took them 4 or more attempts to finally quit. Further, even though many means are currently available to help smokers quit, 82% of former smokers still claimed to have only used will power to quit. Of other predominant methods, 8% reported using the nicotine patch, 4% used nicotine gum, 4% reported reducing daily consumption as a strategy, and 3% used the drug bupropion to help them quit.
At time of quitting, those aged 15-19 and 20-24 years were averaging 12.2 and 12.9 cigarettes per day, respectively. The majority of adults 25 years and older averaged 18 cigarettes per day at the time of quitting.
Slightly over half of current smokers were advised to quit smoking by a medical doctor, nurse or dentist. As to reasons reported for cutting down from daily to occasional smoking, 45% of current smokers were motivated by concern for their future health.
Regarding opinions on smoking in bars and restaurants, there is a definite perceived difference among all respondents on this issue. For restaurants, 77% of all respondents thought there should be severe restrictions on smoking in these establishments, as 42% believed smoking should be banned completely, and a further 35% thought it should only be allowed in an enclosed area of a restaurant. This was a contrast to opinions on smoking in bars, where 55% of all respondents thought there should be severe restrictions: 27% of the opinion that smoking should be completely banned in bars, and 28% thinking it should be allowed only in an enclosed area of a bar.
Even current smokers had different attitudes about smoking restrictions in restaurants as compared to bars. For restaurants, 57% of even current smokers wanted some kind of restriction: 25% wanted no smoking at all and 32% wanted smoking only in an enclosed area. In contrast to this, only 26% of current smokers wanted a restriction of some sort in bars: 9% voted for no smoking at all, and 17% thought there should be smoking only in an enclosed area. While only 5% of current smokers thought it was acceptable to smoke anywhere in a restaurant, 44% of them thought it was acceptable to smoke anywhere in a bar.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the majority of never smokers (84%) wanted severe restrictions on smoking in restaurants: 51% of them thought smoking should be completely banned in restaurants, or only allowed in an enclosed area (33%). A noticeably smaller majority of never smokers (64%) wanted severe restrictions in bars, with 34% wanting it completely banned in a bar, and another 30% wanting it allowed only in an enclosed area.
Former smokers were also more tolerant of allowing smoking in a bar as opposed to a restaurant. Only 5% thought smoking should be allowed anywhere in a restaurant compared to 23% who thought it was acceptable to smoke anywhere in a bar. The majority of former smokers, 76%, thought there should be severe restrictions on smoking in restaurants : 36% wanted it banned completely, and 40% wanted it allowed only in an enclosed area, compared to 59% who agreed with severe restrictions in a bar (25% banned completely, 34% allowed only in an enclosed area).
As to strength of cigarette smoked, 35% of current smokers smoked a regular type of cigarette while 65% of smokers preferred a light, mild, or ultra light/mild, or extra light/mild type of cigarette. Of smokers who smoke light or mild cigarettes, 19% believe they reduce the risks of smoking compared to regular cigarettes, and 34% believe that they inhale less tar with these types of cigarettes compared to regular.
CTUMS provides timely, reliable and continual data on tobacco use and related issues. The survey's primary objective is to track changes in smoking status and consumption, especially for populations most at risk, such as people aged 15-24. This data set, conducted from February to December 2001, collected information from about 21,800 respondents.
For more information contact the Tobacco Control Programme (TCP), Health Canada TCP-PLTfirstname.lastname@example.org).
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