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Increasing number of quit attempts may raise Ontario smoking cessation rates (Jan. 2016)

Recent research from the United States suggests that the strongest driver of a population’s cessation rate (i.e., the proportion of smokers who remain quit for at least 12 months) is the quit attempt rate, since most smokers quit on their own without assistance (i.e., medication and counselling) and most will need to make repeated attempts to quit before succeeding.1,2 According to an estimate from the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Ontario’s smoking cessation rate has stayed the same at 1.9 per cent for many years, making increasing the quit attempt rate a key goal for tobacco control efforts and critical to further reducing smoking in Ontario.

Figure: Incidence trends for cancers associated with excess body weight, Ontario, 1983-2012

Figure description

This figure is a line chart titled 'Current smokers who attempted to quit one or more times in the past year, Ontario, 2000–2014, ages 18+'.

The horizontal axis is labeled 'Year' and lists the years from 2000 to 2014 in increments of two years.

The vertical axis is labeled 'Percent (%)' and increase from 0 to 100 in increments of 10.

The one line shown represents the percent of current smokers who attempt to quit one or more times per year which has not changed in many years.


Source: CAMH Monitor Survey (Full year), 2000–2014 (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).

Note: Quit attempt = an attempt to quit smoking cigarettes that lasted at least 24 hours in the past 12 months.

  • Increasing the rate of quit attempts is critical to increasing a population’s smoking cessation rate.
  • The proportion of Ontario’s smokers who quit smoking and stay quit for at least 12 months is only 1.9 per cent.
  • Only four in 10 smokers in Ontario made one or more quit attempts in the past year; this rate has changed little over the past decade.

In Ontario, interest in quitting is high, with over half of smokers reporting intentions to quit in the next six months.3 However, only four in 10 smokers in Ontario reported making one or more quit attempts in the past year and this rate has not changed in many years.4 Among those who make attempts to quit, the frequency of making multiple attempts is even smaller.5

While treatments such as smoking cessation medications and counselling have been shown to increase quitting success, the high cost and low reach of these interventions means that they are unlikely to influence the provincial cessation rate. In Ontario, it is estimated that clinical treatment services funded under the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy reach only about five per cent of smokers.3

Encouraging smokers to quit with or without assistance is extremely important. An intervention as short as three minutes can help to promote quitting and boost quit rates.6 Healthcare providers can also enhance their efforts by accessing additional resources, such as the Program Training and Consultation Centre’s guide to brief tobacco use cessation counselling ( and by participating in local policy, program and educational efforts led by their local public health department.


  1. Zhu SH, Lee M, Zhuang YL, et al. Interventions to Increase Smoking Cessation at the Population Level: How Much Progress Has Been Made in the Last Two Decades? Tob Control. 2012;21(2):110–8.
  2. Edwards SA, Bondy SJ, Callaghan R, Mann RE. Prevalence of unassisted quit attempts in population-based studies: a systematic review of the literature. Addictive Behaviours. 2014;39:512–9.
  3. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Smoke-free Ontario Strategy Monitoring Report. Toronto: Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, 2015.
  4. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Tobacco Informatics Monitoring System (TIMS) - CAMH Monitor Survey, 2000–2014 [Internet]. Available from
  5. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Tobacco Informatics Monitoring System (TIMS) - Canadian Community Health Survey, 2013–2014. Available from
  6. Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service; May 2008.

Posted January 2015

Citation: Material appearing in this Cancer Fact may be reproduced or copied without permission. The following citation must be used:
Cancer Care Ontario. Cancer Fact. Increasing number of quit attempts may raise Ontario smoking cessation rates. Jan. 2016. Available at

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Last modified: Wed, Jan 20, 2016
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