For millenia the New Year has brought with it an expectation of personal improvement, and for many smokers that means trying (often again!) to quit smoking. This post looks at newly-available data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) which sheds some light on the quitting behaviour of Canadian smokers.
(The charts shown below and the data on which they are based can be downloaded here.)
One in seven Canadians who say they recently quit smoking report they did so in January.
Smokers appear more likely to quit in January than any other month.
When gathering information for the Canadian Community Health Survey, Statistics Canada asks each participant about their smoking status. Those who say they are former smokers are asked how long ago they quit and those who say they have quit in the past year are then asked in which month that quit happened.
The results of these questions over the past 7 cycles of this survey show a clear pattern: the month with the most reported quits is January (15% of quits). The months with the least reported quitting are the spring months of April to June, in which fewer than half as many successful quits are reported as in January.
Because the survey does not include questions about when non-successful quit attempts took place, it is not clear the extent to which the cyclical pattern of successful quitting relates to differences in quit attempts, differences in success rates or just the timing of the interview. (Statistics Canada normally conducts the Canadian Community Health Survey throughout the year, with roughly even numbers of Canadians interviewed in each month.) Other information that is not provided in the survey is the month in which smokers start (or relapse): we know little about the seasonal patterns of smoking initiation and relapse behaviour.
- The number of current smokers fell by 1.5 million and the prevalence of current smoking fell from 18% to 12%
- The number of former smokers increased by 399,000. The prevalence of former smokers in the population fell from 25% to 24%.
- The number of former “experimenters” (non-smoking Canadians who had smoked between 1 and 100 cigarettes) fell by 154,000. The prevalence of “experimenters” fell from 13% to 11%.
- The number of never-smokers (people who had never smoked one whole cigarette) increased by 3.5 million. The prevalence of never smoking increased from 45% to 52%.
- almost 400,000 more smokers instead of a decline of 1.5 million
- an increase in never smokers of only 1 million instead of the observed increase of 3.5 million
- an increase in former smokers of 556,000 instead of the observed increase of only 399,000
- an increase in experimenters of 288,000 instead of the observed decrease of 154,000.
The actual population change is shown in the waterfall graph below.