Tobacco Info

From Tobacco Info No. 8 - January 2012
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Smoking prevalence stalled in 2010


CTUMS reveals the same general trend as CCHS, but sheds more light


By Pierre Croteau

The 2010 annual results of the Canadian Tobacco Usage Monitoring Survey (CTUMS), released by Health Canada on September 7, show that the prevalence of smoking in Canada did not significantly change between 2009 and 2010.  These results are similar to the results of the 2010 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) released by Statistics Canada on June 21 (see Tobacco Info No. 7).

According to CTUMS, the proportion of current smokers slid from 17.5% of Canadians aged 15 years and older in 2009 to 16.7% in 2010.  The average consumption of daily smokers has not changed significantly either, reaching 15.1 cigarettes in 2010.

Smoking teenagers and little cigars

On the other hand, when the 2010 CTUMS results are compared with the first survey in 1999, the struggle against the tobacco epidemic seems largely successful, especially with teenagers.  Some 28% of Canadians aged 15 to 19 years smoked in 1999; by 2010, the rate dropped to 12%.  Among Canadians aged 15 to 17 years old, the proportion of cigarette users, starting at 23% in 1999, dipped as low as 9% in 2010, the lowest prevalence ever recorded in any age group.

However, something that was not offered on the Canadian market in 1999 has since appeared on store shelves: flavoured cigarillos.  Since 2007, the CTUMS has released data regarding the popularity of these little cigars.

In 2010, 6% of Canadian youth aged 15 to 19 reported smoking a little cigar or cigarillo in the past 30 days.  The figure was 11% in 2007.

It’s not sure that the drop in cigarillo usage can be attributed to the provisions about little cigars in the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act of 2009.  Distributors sidestepped the requirement of a minimal number of little cigars per package, as well as the ban on many flavouring agents, as soon as those measures entered into force in April and July 2010.  Of note, the total number of little cigars sold on the Canadian market had already decreased from 2008 to 2009.  (The volume sold in 2010 is not yet known). Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, told Tobacco Info that he believes the disappearance of tobacco product displays at points of purchase in Ontario and Quebec, since May 31, 2008, contributed to the decrease in impulse buying in 2009, particularly for little cigars.  Those products have been specifically marketed “to generate even more trial and impulse purchases,” as a distributor claimed in an ad in YCM magazine, March-April 2007, directed to retailers.

While it is certainly true that these products were primarily marketed through displays at points of sale, the advocacy associated to the ban of flavoured cigarillos also generated greater awareness of the industry use of candy flavours to entice kids and the true risks associated with products that were made to look and taste harmless,” adds Flory Doucas, codirector of the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control.   

Where most minors get their cigarettes

Under Article 8 of the Tobacco Act, “No person shall furnish a tobacco product to a young person in a public place or in a place to which the public reasonably has access.”  Young is interpreted in this 1997 federal law as “under 18 years of age.

In its summary of the 2010 CTUMS annual results, Health Canada stated that, “there was no statistically significant difference in the percentage of underage youth who obtained their cigarettes at no cost from social sources (40% in 2010 compared with 36% in 2009).

The 2010 CTUMS reveals that 60% of youth who were too young to purchase cigarettes legally reported they obtained their cigarettes from a regular retail source.  In its summary, Health Canada mentions that this rate was unchanged from the 64% reported in 2009.  However, it is noteworthy that in the 2008 CTUMS results, 55% of minors who smoked reported they purchased their cigarettes from a regular retail source. This number was 48% in 2007 and 46% in 2006.

Are the bulk of retailers becoming self-serving regarding sales to minors?  To summarize its 2009 Evaluation of Retailers’ Behaviour Toward Certain Youth Access-to-Tobacco Restrictions, published in April 2010, Health Canada stated: “National retailer compliance with respect to refusing cigarette sales to underage youth has exceeded 80% or greater for the sixth consecutive year in 2009.”  However, with roughly 16% of retailers not in compliance in 2009, this amounts to thousands of purchase outlets across the country. No updated results have been released since then.