Smoking killed 21,000 Canadians last year
TORONTO -- There's a reason they call them cancer sticks.
Cigarettes.The decision to keep lighting up killed 21,000 Canadians last year.
And the worst is yet to come, warns an alarming new report by the Canadian Cancer Society.
While anti-smoking campaigns are well established in Canadian schools and smokers have been pushed outside most businesses and offices, the society reports 65,000 people died of cancer last year and more than 21,000 - about one-third - died of cancers directly attributable to tobacco.
"This is a wake-up call for Canadians to quit smoking, to protect non-smokers and to support tobacco controls before the situation worsens," said cancer society spokesman Cheryl Moyer.
"The number of people smoking is decreasing, but not fast enough."
Some 130,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2000, the society said.
The society's figures were released in the middle of National Non-Smoking Week.
Moyer said the society's research shows Canadians are still not fully aware of the health impacts of filling their lungs with toxic smoke.
"They know it can cause lung cancer, but they don't think they will get lung cancer," she said.
If people don't start butting out the numbers will get even more dire as the population grows older.
The total number of new cancer cases will rise by 70 per cent by the year 2015, cancer experts believe.
If everyone suddenly stopped smoking now, the numbers could start to decline by 2020.
The list of cancers the society has linked to smoking includes lung, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, mouth, esophagus and larynx.
The leading cause of cancer death for both Canadian men and women is lung cancer - responsible for an estimated 17,700 deaths in Canada last year.