A change in cigarette packaging has more smokers calling for help.
The federal regulation change pushed ahead by Health Canada in March 2012 required the phone number for the Smokers’ Helpline to appear on all cigarette packaging. Since then, monthly calls to the Ontario number have gone up 160%, or about 1,400 calls a month.
“One of the interesting things that we saw was before the new packaging came down, we had older smokers calling in, and after that we saw a significant change with younger smokers calling,” explains Dr. Bruce Baskerville with the University of Waterloo, who led the study. “That’s important because that tends to be one of the population groups that has the highest rates of smoking in Canada, younger males.”
The tobacco industry has long opposed changes to packaging that could in any way dissuade people from buying cigarettes, but the changes have had their intended impact.
“We’re feeling very positive with respect to these numbers. We had urged this to happen for years,” says Rob Cunningham with the Canadian Cancer Society. “If people have a situation where they need help, the toll-free number is right there.”
The Society says 37,000 Canadians die every year because of tobacco. Cunningham hopes the next step is plain packaging, eliminating brands from cigarette cartons.