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National Non-Smoking Week 2000

Submitted by Melodie Tilson, Josie d'Avernas & Maurice Gingues

Tobacco Affiliate, Canadian Health Network

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National Non-Smoking Week (NNSW) is Canada's largest, longest lasting, and arguably most successful public education campaign on tobacco use. Its goals are:

- to educate Canadians about the dangers of smoking;

- to prevent non-smokers from becoming addicted to tobacco;

- to help smokers quit;

- to promote the right of individuals to breathe air unpolluted by tobacco smoke; and

- to assist in the attainment of a smoke-free society in Canada.

For more than twenty years, National Non-Smoking Week has been observed during the third week in January.

Non-governmental health organizations and federal and provincial health departments have used National Non-Smoking Week as a vehicle to draw media and public attention to important tobacco issues and to set the tobacco control agenda.

"Weedless Wednesday" is a consistently popular way to get the media to focus on the importance of quitting smoking. From its inception in 1977 until 1998, NNSW activities were coordinated by the then Canadian Council on Smoking and Health (now known as the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control) and organized around a central theme. For the past two years, there has been no national coordination of NNSW activities. Provincially, NNSW activities are coordinated by the Council for a Tobacco-Free Ontario, and locally, NNSW activities are implemented by 56 local coalitions across the province.


Weedless Wednesday has been a focal point of National Non-Smoking Week almost from the start, focusing media and public attention on the benefits of cessation and the community resources available to help smokers quit. The idea behind Weedless Wednesday is to promote a "one day at a time" approach to quitting smoking, a concept appealing to many smokers who may be discouraged at the thought of an entire week--or lifetime--without cigarettes but who may be able to cope with one smoke-free day. This year Weedless Wednesday is January 19, 2000.

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The activities that take place during National Non-Smoking Week are as varied as the individuals and agencies that participate in the program. National Non-Smoking Week is truly a Canada-wide endeavour, involving agencies and individuals working at the national, provincial/territorial, and local levels. Thousands of people from coast-to-coast-both volunteers and staff--participate in the campaign, including local health units, local and provincial/territorial councils on smoking and health, health charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Lung Association, and provincial, territorial and federal Ministries of Health.

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Here is a brief overview of some past themes:

** 1977 - "Kick the Habit". The first National Non-Smoking Week emphasized the benefits of quitting smoking.

** 1978-1981 - "Join the Majority, Be a Nonsmoker". In 1978 then Health Minister Monique Bégin held a national news conference in Montreal with Yvan Cournoyer, renowned NHL hockey player and national Honorary Chairperson of the campaign, to launch National Non-Smoking Week. The emphasis on the non-smoking majority remained the theme of NNSW for four years, from 1978 until 1981.

** 1982 - "Towards a Generation of Nonsmokers". In 1982, a national poster contest for children was held, sponsored by the children's magazines Owl and Chickadee. The winning contestants were flown to Ottawa with their parents to participate in the launch of National Non-Smoking Week

** 1996 - "Youth and Tobacco, What a Crime!". This theme supported efforts to restrict youth access to tobacco. 1996 was a time when the federal and many provincial governments were focusing on legislation to prevent tobacco sales to minors.

** 1999 - Federal Health Minister Allan Rock took advantage of National Non-Smoking Week to announce the government's intention to proceed with precedent-setting new cigarette package health warnings that would cover 60% of the package.

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The first National Non-Smoking Week of the new millennium finds us in a time when many jurisdictions are developing or implementing bylaws to expand the number and types of public places and workplaces that are free of tobacco smoke. We have also seen a renewed emphasis on promoting and providing supports for smoking cessation. National Non-Smoking Week continues to provide an excellent vehicle to promote the benefits of a smoke-free society.

Both the federal and provincial governments made significant announcements to support tobacco control efforts during NNSW 2000. On January 19, Federal Health Minister Allan Rock announced tough new regulations that will require tobacco manufacturers to display health messages and graphical images of the effects of tobacco use, as well as information about diseases and how to quit smoking, on all tobacco product packaging. The new health messages will occupy 50% of the front panel of cigarette packages, while the smoking cessation and disease information will appear elsewhere on the package or as a package insert. Minister Rock also announced the intent to table comprehensive new reporting regulations that will provide the government with information on the contents of tobacco products and on tobacco industry research, marketing, sales, promotional and sponsorship activities. The news release for this announcement is available at


On January 17, Ontario Health and Long Term Care Minister Elizabeth Witmer announced new activities planned as part of the $10 Million enhanced funding announced in the spring to support the Ontario Tobacco Strategy. This more than doubles the Ontario government's investment in tobacco control, from $9 Million to $19 Million. Initiatives being supported as part of the $10 Million enhanced funding include:

* $3.2 Million to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario to implement a province-wide media-based education campaign;

* Over $2 Million in grants to local organizations for local program delivery in prevention, cessation and/or protection;

* $1 Million to the Canadian Cancer Society for a toll-free support line to help smokers quit;

* $1 Million to the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit for research and evaluation;

* $400,000 to the Ontario Lung Association to revise and disseminate their school-based prevention program "Lungs are for Life";

* $375,000 to the Ontario Medical Association, Ontario Pharmacists' Association and Ontario Dental Association to support health care professionals in providing clinical interventions to support smoking cessation;

* various levels of funding to a number of other provincial and local groups, and resource centres, to support tobacco control activities.

The news release for this announcement can be found at

A variety of activities have been organized by non-governmental organizations across Canada as well. Below we profile one province-wide initiative (Ontario) and one community's plans. For information about activities planned in other provinces, check , under "New and Notable".

In Ontario, activities are being coordinated by the Council for a Tobacco-free Ontario with the help of local coalitions, around the slogan "smoke-free comes in steps." CTFO has provided "action kits" to all 56 local councils and health units to promote the contest locally. The goal of the campaign this year is to register 20,000 smokers across Ontario in a Quit and Win contest. Prizes, obtained through membership contributions to CTFO, include a Carribean cruise for two, a diamond pendant necklace, 3 TV/VCR sets from Sony; and a 3-day weekend for 2 at the Sheraton Hotel with $500 in spending money. Smokers interested in joining the contest must register by February 29 and identify two buddies to help them quit. Contestants can quit smoking any time starting January 1, 2000, but must remain smoke-free for the entire month of March to be eligible for prizes. More details about the contest can be found at

As part of this campaign, individuals interested in quitting have access to copies of a new self-help guide to quitting smoking from the Canadian Cancer Society. The complete resource is also available on-line, free of charge, from the Canadian Cancer Society website at . This new program recognizes that smokers are at different stages in their readiness to quit smoking and has tailored the material around the five major steps in the quitting process.

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In the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, the final phase of a bylaw went into effect January 1, 2000 that requires all public places to be 100% smoke-free, including restaurants, bars, places of amusement, and many other public places. The Council for a Tobacco-Free Waterloo Region is supporting the bylaw with a communications plan that includes activities before, during, and after National Non-Smoking Week:

Ads promoting smoke-free public places are appearing on billboards and buses. These ads were selected from submissions from high school, college, and university students to a contest coordinated by the Council earlier in the fall.

This campaign was made possible by a grant to the Council from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

A second direct mail postcard is being sent to all houses, apartments, and farms in the Region. The first postcard was sent in November 1999 and alerted residents to the bylaw implementation on January 1. This second postcard reinforces the bylaw implementation date and encourages people to go enjoy the smoke-free places.

Since bylaw changes can also trigger interest in quitting smoking, the Council, in partnership with the health department, is also promoting the provincial Quit Smoking 2000 contest. Smokers are encouraged to quit smoking, to identify two buddies to help them quit, and to register for the contest to be eligible to win prizes. In Waterloo Region, the contest was officially launched on Weedless Wednesday, in conjunction with an open house for Smokers' Anonymous, a local support group for current and former smokers.

A tobacco information line is being promoted on all contest materials, and a pamphlet listing quit smoking supports is being distributed.


** On the effects of smoking and second-hand smoke.

Tobacco use is the most significant cause of preventable disease, disability, and premature death in Canada, responsible for more than 40,000 deaths every year. Tobacco kills three times more Canadians each year than alcohol, AIDS, illegal drugs, car accidents, suicide, and murder--all combined!

- For more information on the health effects of smoking, see the BC government "Tobacco Facts" website ( )

- Health Canada also has a comprehensive website, with links to many other informative sites. ( .

- Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke also poses serious risks to health. Adults who live with a smoker have a 30% greater chance of getting lung cancer and a 20-30% increased risk of dying of heart disease. ( - Children regularly exposed to tobacco smoke have a higher risk of developing various health problems, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and asthma. ( )

** On the benefits of quitting smoking.

The moment you quit smoking, your body begins to heal itself. Quitting smoking enhances the health and well being of the smoker, regardless of how old the smoker is or how long he or she has been smoking. For more information on the benefits of quitting, see the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control website. (

** for resources to help smokers quit.

For those wanting to quit smoking, there are many resources available to help them, from support groups, to self-help programs, to over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Consult the National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health resource list for a thorough listing of the assistance available on the Internet. (

** for information about National Non-Smoking Week activities planned in other provinces.

Check , under "New and Notable".

** for more information or if you have questions about these and other tobacco issues.

Members of the general public and health intermediaries can obtain information from and send questions to the Canada Health Network at . Health intermediaries can also call the National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health toll-free at 1-800-267-5234 .