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Estimation of smoking prevalence in Canada: Implications of survey characteristics in the CCHS and CTUMS/CTADS

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One of the main enterprises associated with tobacco control is surveillance, that is, to measure and follow over time the extent of smoking among the Canadian population. While surveillance systems have been in place for more than 50 years, knowing the exact prevalence of smoking in Canada continues to be a complex matter and understanding its estimation requires a critical appreciation of our national surveys’ idiosyncrasies. This commentary describes the two Statistics Canada surveys that are most commonly used to examine smoking prevalence in this country: the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) and the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS). It compares estimates of smoking prevalence obtained from each source and examines potential reasons for their noticeable discrepancies. Canadian researchers interested in smoking prevalence should be aware of current and future limitations, and should discuss and analyze these accordingly.


L’une des principales entreprises associées à la lutte contre le tabagisme est la surveillance, c’est-à-dire la mesure et le suivi de l’ampleur du tabagisme dans la population canadienne. Bien que les systèmes de surveillance soient en place depuis plus de cinquante ans, connaître la prévalence exacte du tabagisme au Canada continue d’être une question complexe. La compréhension de son estimation nécessite ainsi une appréciation critique des particularités de nos enquêtes nationales. Ce commentaire décrit les deux enquêtes de Statistique Canada les plus couramment utilisées pour examiner la prévalence du tabagisme au Canada: l’Enquête sur la santé dans les collectivités canadiennes (ESCC) et l’Enquête canadienne sur le tabac, l’alcool et les drogues (ECTAD). Il compare les estimations de la prévalence du tabagisme obtenues à partir de chaque source et examine les raisons potentielles de leurs divergences. Les chercheurs canadiens qui s’intéressent à la prévalence du tabagisme devraient être plus conscients des limites actuelles et futures de nos données et travailler à les dépasser.

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Correspondence to Thierry Gagné MSc.

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Acknowledgements: The author thanks the Interdisciplinary Study of Inequalities in Smoking (ISIS) research group, Jennifer O’Loughlin, Benoît Lasnier and Gerry Veenstra for their help, and acknowledges funding support from a PhD scholarship from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS).

Conflict of Interest: None to declare.

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Gagné, T. Estimation of smoking prevalence in Canada: Implications of survey characteristics in the CCHS and CTUMS/CTADS. Can J Public Health 108, e331–e334 (2017).

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