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Toss the tobacco: why it’s more important now than ever to quit smoking for good

Lung cancer is B.C.’s deadliest cancer and most cases could be prevented. At a time when good respiratory health is so important, the evidence is clear that tobacco, smokeless tobacco products and second-hand smoke have dangerous health effects.
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​January 17 – 23 is National Non-Smoking Week. In B.C. and Canada, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, with tobacco use the most significant risk factor for developing lung cancer. 

On average, there are 3,400 new cases of lung cancer every year in the province and although overall the rates of new cases are declining in B.C., BC Cancer’s data and analytics team are noticing that lung cancer rates have generally increased for women, especially those living in the Interior and Northern Health regions. 

“Therefore, it is important for people to reduce their risk through cancer prevention strategies and ensure those with high risk are identified and diagnosed as early as possible,” said Dr. Ryan Woods, director of Data & Analytics at BC Cancer said in an earlier interview

High risk individuals are those who have been life-long smokers or who have a history of heavy smoking behaviour. 

It is important to note that nearly 80% of lung cancer diagnoses in B.C. can be attributed to risk factors that are within a person’s ability to control or change. For example, 71% of all preventable cases of lung cancer in B.C. can be linked to tobacco use. While smoking rates have been declining in B.C., for people who smoke tobacco, quitting smoking is the most effective way to reduce the risk of lung cancer. Quitting smoking can reduce a person’s risk by up to 60% within 10 years.

Those who use e-cigarettes may not be in the clear, says Dr. Parveen Bhatti, senior scientist for prevention at BC Cancer. In a previously published article about how British Columbian’s can reduce their risk, Dr. Bhatti indicates that “we need more research on the impact of e-cigarettes on cancer risk. Since e-cigarettes utilize a vapor rather than smoke through combustion, they are thought to carry a reduced risk of lung cancer, but we need more research on this. There could still be carcinogens in the vapor and there are still many questions about vaping-associated lung illness that remain unanswered.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought respiratory health to the forefront. Cancer patients who smoke are likely at a higher risk for adverse outcomes associated with the virus, according to the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the BC Cancer Smoking Cessation Program. Their recommendation is that smoking cessation efforts for cancer patients should be an increased priority at this time. 

For those looking to toss the tobacco, the BC Smoking Cessation Program helps eligible B.C. residents stop smoking and the QuitNow program, available to all Canadians, provides one-on-one support and valuable resources free of charge. 

BC Cancer
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