The work of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit includes programs in tobacco control research, research capacity building, comprehensive tobacco control evaluation and monitoring, and knowledge transfer and exchange.
Our research and evaluation activities produce evidence-based knowledge that contributes to the development of effective and efficient program and policy initiatives for tobacco control in Ontario and elsewhere.
Current cessation work includes evaluations of quit smoking initiatives in a variety of settings including the workplace and health care settings, further analysis of data from OTRU’s Ontario Tobacco Survey, a multi component study of electronic cigarettes including their use as a cessation aid, research on tobacco reduction in aboriginal communities, ongoing development of a smokers’ panel that provides a platform for studies on cessation pathways, factors related to relapse, and intervention outcomes, and studies reaching across the three pillars of tobacco control that model the impact of policy and program measures.
Prevention projects investigate the prevalence and predictors of tobacco use and other health risk behaviours among young people during the transition from adolescence to adulthood, the impact of social exposure on youth perspectives about smoking and smoking behavior, and the influence of social networks on the smoking behavior of youth.
The OTRU study of electronic cigarettes also includes an examination of the role of e-cigarettes as a “gateway” to uptake of traditional cigarettes. A project is also underway to examine gaps in knowledge about effective interventions to reduce the uptake and use of tobacco in Aboriginal communities in Ontario.
Protection projects investigate physical and social exposure to smoking and the impacts of smoke-free policies on smoking behavior. Recent projects include a literature synthesis of the health effects of exposure to second smoke in outdoor settings and the impacts of outdoor smoking bans, studies looking at exposure and policies in home environments.
While there may be potential for e-cigarettes to support tobacco harm reduction and cessation, there are many unanswered questions about e-cigarettes. Public debate surrounds their promotion, sale and use; concerns over youth uptake; the potential for renormalization of smoking; their effectiveness as a cessation aid; and their health impacts. Current OTRU research on e-cigarettes focuses on these questions, exploring patterns of use, health effects and their effectiveness as a cessation aid.
OTRU’s evaluation projects assess the contributions of individual Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy interventions to the overall Strategy goals. Evaluative information about the activities and results of the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy are presented in our annual Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy Monitoring Report. This report describes Strategy infrastructure and interventions (policies, programs and social marketing), analyzes population-level changes, and explores the contributions of interventions. OTRU also undertakes studies reaching across the three pillars of tobacco control that model the impact of policy and program measures.
Individual evaluation studies are described under the Cessation, Prevention and Protection sections of the site.
Ontario Tobacco Survey
The Ontario Tobacco Survey (OTS) is a population-based longitudinal survey of smokers and a cross-sectional survey of non-smokers in Ontario. It is a core, multi-year project of OTRU. Data from the survey provide a better understanding of the processes of, and influences on, smoking cessation and relapse, monitor trends in tobacco-related knowledge and exposures for both smokers and non-smokers, and evaluate and inform the impact of the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy.