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Ottawa Public Health Update - World No Tobacco Day

The annual World No Tobacco Day (May 31st) was created in 1987 by Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.


This yearly celebration informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations.

World No Tobacco Day also provides an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effect of commercial tobacco use and to encourage people who smoke to consider joining thousands of others as they take their first steps to becoming smoke-free.

Decades of collaborative efforts to reduce and prevent commercial tobacco use have resulted in a significant reduction and prevention of illness and death across Canada. However, persistent, high rates of morbidity and mortality associated with smoking require ongoing and updated efforts. Reduction of harm and youth prevention for cannabis and vape or e-cigarette use can also be considered in tobacco prevention strategy given the co-use of both products with tobacco and associated risk related to nicotine addiction. 

The recent report by Public Health Ontario on ‘Burden of Health Conditions Attributable to Smoking and Alcohol’ found the rate of smoking in Ottawa (15%) to be the 4th lowest in the province but remains the cause of 16.5% of all deaths including 44% of cancer deaths, 7.8% of hospitalizations and 3.2% of emergency department visits from all causes in people age 35 and older. In Ottawa, priority populations include those with a higher smoking prevalence:

o   between the ages of 19 and 24 (18%*);

o   with French as a mother tongue (20%*);

o   with lower levels of education (22%*); and

o      with lower income (26%*).

More generally, smoking rates are known to be higher among people with concurrent mental health and substance use health needs. Quitting is associated with improved mental health, including reduced anxiety, depression and stress.  

Although vaping is sometimes discussed as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, recent data from Statistics Canada indicates that most people who use vapes are young and do not smoke. The Ottawa-specific results of the 2021 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) showed the most common substance used by high school students in the past year, after alcohol (42%), were cannabis (21%*), and vapes/e-cigarettes (12%*). Furthermore, one in 10* grade 9-12 students reported using cannabis to cope with a mental health issue in the past year.  Significantly more students identifying as non-racialized compared to racialized reported use of vapes/e-cigarettes (11%* vs. 5%*). Although youth smoking rates appear to have declined significantly (3.1%), data collected during the pandemic must be interpreted with caution and requires ongoing monitoring.

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death and has negative health impacts on people across the lifespan from unborn babies to seniors.

According to Health Canada, your health improves within 20 minutes of quitting smoking for example, at 20 minutes your blood pressure drops to a level similar to what it was before your last cigarette.Counselling and medication, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like the patch, are the best support we can recommend to anyone trying to quit. Multiple specialized partners provide services and supports for anyone trying to quit. For more information about resources to reduce or quit smoking, please visit OPH’s website at

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