Sunday, 1 September 2019

ICYMI: Health Canada releases a trove of research reports on vaping and smoking

Finished with trashy beach novels? Looking for something more gritty to read? Canada's National Library has just the antidote to those light reading blues -- a stack of consumer research reports on Canadians' knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to tobacco/nicotine.

It's only a little more than a year since the Canadian government opened the door for tobacco company marketing of vaping products (prior to that it was a tolerated grey market supplied by tolerated illegal manufacturers and distributors).

In that time, it has proven frustratingly difficult to assess the impact of this market liberalization on the use of these products. Most of the available survey data on vaping predates the marketing of Juul, Vype, Stlth and other mass marketed nicotine products.

Canada's traditional health surveillance system has a lot going for it -- but it has not yet caught up with the vaping phenomenon. The core federal health surveys (like the Canadian Community Health Survey) have largely ignored e-cigarettes and the specialized surveys (like the Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drug Survey) were inexplicably suspended for the year the nicotine market was liberalized.

To address this gap, Health Canada has put significant resources into consumer research. This may not yield the robust indicators on smoking and vaping patterns, but it does helps us understand a little more about what is motivating those who do.

Federal policy dictates that all public opinion research be made public through the library within 6 months of finalizing the field work. Because much of the field work wrapped up at the end of the last fiscal year, the reports were uploaded to the Library of Canada website in late August.

Five of these reports are linked below.

POR 067-18

Qualitative and quantitative research on perceptions of nicotine 

The report covered both smoking and vaping behaviours of Canadians aged 13 years and old, exploring several aspects of each. It involved both focus groups and on-line questionnaires (with more than 4000 respondents online)  and was conducted by the Earnscliffe Strategy Group.  Banner tables from the study are also available, and included with the usual demographic break-downs are information on Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. (The results showing the much higher use of nicotine and cannabis and much lower expressions of concern by Indigenous participants is sobering indeed!).

Tidbit: 1 in 10 daily smokers also vape with nicotine every day. 4 in 10 vapers smoke every day.

POR 119-18 

Smoking Behaviour Journey Map

This innovative study sought insight into the role that tobacco use played in  adult smokers' lives. More than 500 smokers participated in an on-line survey and of those, 80 smokers submitted daily journals. The study confirmed that "Generally speaking, smoking appears to be a means to manage or cope with feelings and emotions. When it did come up, it was typically associated with the comfort of routine (and primarily the morning routine), or a moment for relaxation or quiet reflection. It can also have a calming effect when feeling overwhelmed or stressed."

Tidbit: 1 in 3 daily smokers use cannabis more than once per week.  1 in 10 use it every day.

POR 093-18 

Smokers and Recent Quitters’ Awareness and Perceptions of Options to Minimize Harms from Nicotine and Tobacco Products

This online survey was taken by 3,500 adult smokers and former smokers.  The researchers originally wanted to question people who had quit in the past year, but were unable to find enough of them. (!)  Given the publicity about e-cigarettes, a surprisingly low number of smokers (30%) acknowledged being familiar with them.

Tidbit: Almost 1 in 10 (8%) of former smokers use e-cigarettes daily. 1 in 6 recent quitters who has tried e-cigarettes continues to use them daily, compared with 1 in 15 recent quitters who has tried the patch and continues to use it.

POR 126-18 

Qualitative Testing of Revised Health Warnings for Cigarette Packages and on Cigarette 

This study reports on focus group testing of proposed health warning messages, and the views of young smokers and non smokers, and young adult and adult smokers. Participants were shown 44 potential health warning messages, and 52 on-cigarette warnings. (No country has yet implemented on-cigarette warnings).

Tidbit: "Reactions to having health warnings printed directly on cigarettes are viscerally negative among participants who smoke, as they are considered unnecessary to warn those who smoke, and a costly approach. However, the presence of on-cigarette health warnings made smoking less attractive to people who smoke and less frequent smokers expressed mixed opinion regarding its potential to impact awareness of health hazards."

POR 058-18

Public Opinion Research on Noticeability of Health Information Messages and effectiveness of Health Warnings for Tobacco Labelling

This online survey of 3000 Canadian smokers (aged 16 years or older) aimed to inform improvements to health information messages and health warning messages.

Tidbit:  1 in 3 smokers cannot recall seeing the Health Information Messages, even though they have been printed within each cigarette package for almost 20 years.