Tobacco kills 1 in 2 smokers, says Quebec anti-smoking campaign

It’s Quebec Tobacco-Free Week and anti-smoking advocates are urging the 1.4 million smokers in the province to finally butt out.

Campaign follows year of new anti-smoking laws including no smoking on terraces or within 9 metres of doors

Quebec Tobacco-Free Week follows a year of new anti-smoking laws in the province. (CBC)

It's Quebec Tobacco-Free Week and anti-smoking advocates are urging the 1.4 million smokers in the province to finally butt out.

One out of two smokers will die from the habit, says the Quebec Council of Tobacco and Health. It also places tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death in Quebec.

That statistic is the tagline for the week-long campaign, funded in part by the Quebec government.

According to the executive director of the council, Mario Bujold, people have become blasé to the dangers of smoking.

"It's a lottery. A lottery we have a good chance of losing," he said.

He adds that the habit shaves an average of 10 years from someone's life and that their last years are marked by a horrible quality of life.

"Every day 14 Quebecers die from smoking," Dr. Martin Champagne, the president of the Association of Quebec Hematologists and Oncologists, told CBC News.

"This is a Lac-Mégantic [rail disaster] in Quebec every three days. This is a jumbo jet crashing every three weeks."

Laws push smoking out

Despite the jarring imagery used in the campaign, complete with frightful statistics, the week-long anti-smoking advocacy initiative pales in comparison to the new anti-laws the Quebec government put in place last year.

In May, smoking was banned on terraces. By November, smokers were told they couldn't smoke within nine metres of a door or window.

Bar owners complained that taking smoking off terraces would hurt business.

The co-owner of the Burgundy Lion pub in Montreal's Southwest borough, Toby Lyle, said the opposite proved true.

A lot of his customers wouldn't sit on the terrace because they didn't like the second-hand smoke.

"This is the way the world is going," he said.

Co-owner of the Burgundy Lion, Toby Lyle, says 2016's anti-smoking laws have not hurt business the way some bar owners feared. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

After the nine-metre rule came into effect, Lyle said the pub held a bouncer meeting to discuss pushing smokers as far from the door as possible.

But he says it's a hard rule to enforce.

"We're on Notre-Dame Street here, there's a restaurant beside us, there's a theatre on the other side of us. And nine metres is an arbitrary number," Lyle said.

"I don't understand how anyone's supposed to smoke in this city at all."

Physical and emotional addiction

The head of Quebec Tobacco-Free Week says jarring ads like this one are needed to combat apathy. (courtesy Quebec Tobacco-Free Week )
In ads running on television and social media, families are seen following a smoker who has a knife hanging over their head.

According to the ads, death from smoking "always falls on someone we love."

Along with the ads, the council wants to use this awareness-raising week to push smokers towards its support services.

Bujold says there are products to help smokers quit the physical side of the addiction, but treating the emotional addiction is equally important.

The council is offering a phone-in support line and website to help people who need it.

The services boasts having helped 250,000 smokers kick the habit in the past 15 years.