Ontario Lung Association Seeks to Ban the Word “Habit”

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expect changeTHUNDER BAY – Is smoking impacting you? Is a loved one’s smoking causing you to worry about the impact on you, on their health, or on the health of your children?

Today, the Ontario Lung Association is calling for a new type of ban when it comes to smoking – a ban on the word “habit” – to combat the attitude that smoking is simply a matter of choice and to increase understanding of the true nature of smoking: a serious addiction.

“Too many Ontarians believe smoking is a habit, implying it is something easily overcome with willpower alone, not acknowledging how addictive nicotine is and why it is so difficult for people to quit,” said George Habib, president and CEO of the Ontario Lung Association. “That’s why the Ontario Lung Association is calling today on media, government and the public to abolish the word “habit” and recognize smoking as the powerful addiction it is.”

Approximately two million people in Ontario still smoke and at least half of them have tried to quit in the past year without success.

“If it was easy to quit smoking, there would be about a million people who would quit today,” said Mr. Habib. “The numbers speak for themselves. Smoking is so much more than a habit and Ontarians need help to quit successfully. We need to correct some damaging myths when it comes to dealing with this addiction so that smokers receive the proper support.”

A recent Leger Marketing surveyi of smokers, former smokers and non-smokers in Ontario revealed that attitudes about smoking need to be changed:

  • Non-smokers have the greatest belief that smoking is an addiction, with only 8 per cent of respondents identifying that they most see smoking as a habit.
  • Conversely, smokers don’t have the same level of understanding as their non-smoking counterparts as almost 1 in 5 smokers (18%) believe smoking to be only a habit.
  • Smokers were least likely to believe smoking is an addiction alone (27%) compared to former smokers (35%) and non-smokers (46%).
  • Smokers are most likely to believe that smoking is only a habit when compared to former smokers (15%) and non-smokers (8%).

In order to quit successfully, smokers need to overcome nicotine addiction
Quitting smoking is challenging because of the addictive properties of nicotine – which is as addictive as heroin or cocaine.ii

“For those who have difficulty quitting on their own, the key is first to understand what you’re up against and recognize that smoking is an addiction,” explains Dr. Peter Selby, director of Addiction Programs, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and associate professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. “The good news is that smoking is certainly something that can be overcome with the right plan. If you’re a smoker, your doctor or other healthcare professionals can work with you to set up your quit plan, and talk to you about the different treatments and support services available to help you quit and help you prepare for the quitting process, including withdrawal symptoms.”

On average, smokers attempt to quit five times before achieving success and only between five and 10 per cent of smokers manage to successfully quit cold turkey. iii, iv While organizations like the Ontario Lung Association have resources to help smokers quit, clearly more needs to be done.

“As a former smoker, I need to tell you that quitting was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” recalls Allan Hobbs, 54, former smoker. “I’m pretty strong-minded about others things in my life so I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just drop that habit. When I did more research I realized that my smoking was much more than a habit. I was addicted to smoking big time. I smoked for 32 years and tried to quit many, many times. My family, friends, and importantly, my doctor, helped me overcome my addiction and to this day, it is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.”

Legislation has come a long way, but there is more to do
Smoke-Free Ontario legislation to date has made significant limitations on exposure to second-hand smoke, but it has not yet addressed the fact that people are addicted to nicotine.

“The time is now for governments and private insurers to provide more counselling, support and access to medications to help those who are struggling to overcome their addiction to nicotine,” said Mr. Habib. “The Ontario Lung Association believes that a comprehensive smoking cessation plan will not only improve the health of Ontarians, but will also yield enormous savings to the health system according to our research, and is one important aspect of a lung health action plan that this province so desperately needs.”

When it comes to access to further support, Ontarians agree with the Ontario Lung Association:

  • 42 per cent of Ontarians believe the government is currently doing too little to support smokers who would like to quit
  • The majority of Ontarians (67%) believe that smoking cessation aids, both prescription and over-the-counter, should be supported by the government
  • In fact, if smoking cessation aids, prescription or over-the-counter, were available free-of-charge 79 per cent of smokers would be more likely to use at least one smoking cessation medications in their quit attempts
  • Similarly, more smokers would look to educational products and programs as well as behavioural counselling if it were provided free of charge
  • Ontarians also agree (76%) that government-funded smoking cessation programs will yield savings to the healthcare system

Aside from the astounding human cost of tobacco, Ontario’s annual healthcare bill is a staggering $6.1 billion v, with another $4.4 billion in productivity costs from sick days each year. An investment in smoking cessation medications will create net savings for the government – and taxpayers – of $21-$36 million annually, which equates to an estimated return on investment through saved lives and healthcare savings of $3 for every dollar invested. According to recent research by the Ontario Lung Association, over the next 10 years, the cumulative economic impact of medications, plus limited counselling, is projected to be a gross savings of more than $1.2 billion vi.

The need for a lung health action plan
The Ontario Lung Association is advocating for a comprehensive smoking cessation system, as part of an Ontario Lung Health Strategy, to improve lung health and prevent respiratory illness and disease among Ontarians. To show your support and sign the pledge, visit www.on.lung.ca.
The “Abolish the Word Habit” program was made possible through an educational grant from Pfizer Canada Inc.

Notes to Editor/News Director:

Ontario Video News Release will be available via satellite on Thursday May 26, 2011 at:
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Canadian Video News Release will be available via satellite on Thursday May 26, 2011 at:
10:15 – 10:30 and again at 14:15 – 14:30 Eastern
Anik F2C/3B
Download Freq: 3820MHz V
Audio subcarriers 6.8 left, 6.2 right
For assistance with the feed call: 1-800-565-1471

Video News Release also available via download Thursday May 26, 2011
Click here to access broadcast quality footage http://www.newscanada.com/mpgdownload.asp?id=nc4525b
Please contact cdillon@newscanada.com if you do not have your Login ID and Password.

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About the Survey:

  • The survey was completed online from May 8-19, 2011 using Leger Marketing’s online panel, LegerWeb, with a sample of 1,011 Ontarians between the ages of 19 and 55 years
  • The survey was conducted among smokers (n=274), non-smokers (n=403) and former smokers (n=334)
  • A probability of a sample this size would yield a margin of error +/- 2.19%, 19 times out of 20
  • Leger Marketing’s online panel has approximately 360,000 members nationally – with between 10,000 and 20,000 new members added each month, and has a retention rate of 90%
  • Panel members are randomly selected to receive email invitations to the individual surveys


i Leger Marketing. Abolish the Word Habit Smokers Study. Conducted May 2011.
ii Health Canada. Nicotine. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/body-corps/nicotine-eng.php . Accessed April 2011.
iii Leger Marketing Research Series on Smoking Behaviour. Completed with smokers, non-smokers and ex-smokers in 2006-2008, sponsored by Pfizer Canada Inc.
iv Hughes, J. New Treatments for Smoking Cessation. CA Cancer J Clin. 200; 50: 143-151. http://caonline.amcancersoc.org/cgi/reprint/50/3/143 . Accessed January 2011.
v Government of Ontario. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Population-Based Strategies for Smoking Cessation. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/tech/ohtas/tech_smoking_20100120.html. Accessed April 2011.
vi Life at Risk: Economic Burden of Lung Health. RiskAnalytica. Data on file.
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