Lessons learned implementing a province-wide smoking cessation initiative in Ontario’s cancer centres

W.K. Evans, R. Truscott, E. Cameron, A. Peter, R. Reid, P. Selby, P. Smith, A. Hey



A large body of evidence clearly shows that cancer patients experience significant health benefits with smoking cessation. Cancer Care Ontario, the provincial agency responsible for the quality of cancer services in Ontario, has undertaken a province-wide smoking cessation initiative. The strategies used, the results achieved, and the lessons learned are the subject of the present article.


Evidence related to the health benefits of smoking cessation in cancer patients was reviewed. A steering committee developed a vision statement for the initiative, created a framework for implementation, and made recommendations for the key elements of the initiative and for smoking cessation best practices.


New ambulatory cancer patients are being screened for their smoking status in each of Ontario’s 14 regional cancer centres. Current or recent smokers are advised of the benefits of cessation and are directed to smoking cessation resources as appropriate. Performance metrics are captured and used to drive improvement through quarterly performance reviews and provincial rankings of the regional cancer centres.


Regional smoking cessation champions, commitment from Cancer Care Ontario senior leadership, a provincial secretariat, and guidance from smoking cessation experts have been important enablers of early success. Data capture has been difficult because of the variety of information systems in use and non-standardized administrative and clinical processes. Numerous challenges remain, including increasing physician engagement; obtaining funding for key program elements, including in-house resources to support smoking cessation; and overcoming financial barriers to access nicotine replacement therapy. Future efforts will focus on standardizing processes to the extent possible, while tailoring the approaches to the populations served and the resources available within the individual regional cancer programs.


Smoking cessation; program implementation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3747/co.24.3506

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)