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FAQ


  • The Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CSTADS) is a school-based survey administered every two years on behalf of Health Canada to a sample of students in grades 7 to 12 (Secondary I through V in Quebec) from the 10 Canadian provinces.
  • Formerly called the Youth Smoking Survey (YSS), CSTADS collects data on youth tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, and other drug use as well as other health related areas, such as bullying.
  • The first Youth Smoking Survey (YSS) was conducted in 1994 and was repeated in 2002; YSS has been collecting biennial data since 2004-05. The CSTADS has been collecting biennial data since 2014-15. The 2019-20 cycle was not conducted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Canadian survey research firm CCI Research Inc. has been contracted to administer the 2021-2022 cycle of CSTADS.
  • Understanding Canadian trends in tobacco, alcohol and drug use is vital to the effective development, implementation and evaluation of strategies, policies and programs aimed at addressing problematic substance use.
  • School-aged children and youth are generally recognized as most at risk for experimenting with tobacco products, alcohol and drugs. This is a meaningful project for Canadian youth!
  • For example, in the 2018-19 CSTADS we learned:
    • Among students in grades 7 to 12 who tried smoking, the average age at which they first tried, even just a puff, was 13.7 years.
    • E-cigarette prevalence rates doubled among students between 2018-19 and the previous survey in 2016-17.
    • Among students who had recently smoked a cigarette or used an e-cigarette, the majority obtained the product from a social source rather than a retail store.
    • Alcohol remains the substance with the highest prevalence of use by Canadian students in grades 7 to 12.
    • Cannabis, which includes marijuana, hash and hash oil, has the next highest prevalence of use after alcohol.
    • Among Canadian students in grades 7 to 12, the average age for first trying an alcoholic beverage was 13.4 years and the average age for first using cannabis was 14.3 years.
    (Source: taken from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/2018-2019-summary.html)
  • The global pandemic of COVID-19 has altered the lives of students across Canada, and this has increased the importance of the survey, capturing any impact on tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, and other drug use among these students.
  • Regular measurement is required to support the effective development and monitoring of programs aimed at reducing substance use and related harms among Canada’s youth, as well as the regulation of tobacco products and illegal drugs.
  • CSTADS will provide Health Canada, provinces, schools, communities, and parents with timely and reliable data on tobacco, alcohol and drug use among Canada’s youth, as well as other health-related issues such as bullying.
  • The study population includes a representative sample of at least 36,000 youth, or approximately 6,000 students in each of grades 7 to 12 (Secondary I to V in Quebec) in all provinces in Canada.
  • CSTADS collects data on topics such as tobacco use, alcohol use, drug use (illegal, prescription, over-the-counter, etc.) and health-related issues such as bullying.
  • In addition, some demographic information will be collected (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity) to help provide a clear picture of the behaviours under study, since different groups of people (e.g., males, females) may use tobacco and other specific substances at different rates, or require different types of interventions to prevent their smoking or substance use.
Each school will appoint a School Administrator for the survey. We will provide each School Administrator with the support required, including webinars, instructions, training, how-to-videos and of course the survey materials themselves. We will need your help to:
  • Assign a staff member to be a School Administrator who will be the project contact and oversee the survey at the school.
  • Communicate about the survey to the school staff, the students and the parents/guardians, using materials and templates provided along with permission forms.
  • On a date selected by your school, administer the survey to students during a 30 to 40-minute period in the classroom under the supervision of a teacher.
  • Courier surveys back to CCI Research (a prepaid return label will be provided).
  • Provide feedback on the process (via an online form) to inform improvements in future iterations of the CSTADS.
  • This project has been reviewed and received ethics clearance from Health Canada's Research Ethics Board.
  • School boards and schools are also able to review the questionnaire before agreeing to participate.
  • As per school board protocols, parents/guardians and students are asked to provide permission/consent before participating in the project.
  • Research suggests that youth in grades 7 to 12 already know about these topic areas. Tobacco and substance use are part of the school health curriculum.
  • We encourage the school to incorporate the CSTADS experience into discussions on these topics, and to use the school report with key results from the survey as a teaching tool.
  • It is not anticipated that students would experience any risks from participation in this survey. However, there is the possibility that some students may be exposed to topics that are new to them.
  • In cases where researchers believe that a student may need protection from harm, the situation must by law be reported to authorities. Although this study does not require any identifying information that could link a student to the survey, a student could include more information than asked for that could enable authorities to identify the student.
  • The permission/consent procedures used for CSTADS are guided by the procedures required within school boards and schools.
  • All students in the appropriate grades with parental permission and/or who are at the age of consent or older and have personally agreed to participate, may participate in and complete the survey.
  • Permission/consent procedures can be provided in one of three ways:
    • Passive Consent Procedure: An information letter is distributed to students and their parents/guardians by the school, with a toll-free number to call, or online form to complete, if they do not want their child to participate in the survey. If students are of age to consent to participate in research, as determined by the school board/school, they can choose to participate in the survey on their own.
    • Active Consent Procedure: An information letter and permission form are distributed to students and their parents/guardians by the school. The form can be completed online or, if the school chooses, the form can be returned in hard copy to the child’s teacher.
    • Student Consent: Student participation is voluntary, and any student can refuse to take part in the survey, withdraw, or decline to answer survey questions at any time with no penalty, even if previous consent to participate has been granted. Students who do not participate in the survey are asked to work quietly at their desks while other students complete the survey.
  • Answers to the survey questionnaire are confidential. No student names will appear with, or be linked to, the answers provided on the survey.
  • After completing the survey, each student will confidentially place their own survey directly into a classroom envelope. At the end of the survey administration in their class, the envelope will be sealed in front of the class before it is returned to the School Administrator to send to CCI Research for processing.
  • All results generated from the survey data collected will only be reported in groups (e.g., by grade, sex) to ensure confidentiality of all participating students.
  • The school results will be provided to participating schools in a grouped form so long as at least 20 surveys were received for their school.
  • The list of schools that participate will not be published.
  • Although schools will receive a school report if they have at least 20 completed surveys from their school, only they have the authority to share those results/reports. School results will not otherwise be shared.
  • Specific schools will not be identified in the public release data set produced.
  • CSTADS will provide Health Canada, each province, schools, communities, and parents with timely and reliable data on tobacco, alcohol and drug use in addition to other related issues. The potential benefits of participating are far-reaching:
    • For parents: This survey provides an opportunity to talk with their children about tobacco, alcohol and drug use, as well as other health-related issues such as bullying.
    • For schools: Participating in CSTADS can help schools create a healthier environment. For example, by using the school results, schools can educate their school community about student smoking and other health behaviours, as well as create policies and programs to keep students healthy. Results can be shared with parents/guardians and school-based health committees to raise awareness and advance anti-smoking and/or anti-bullying campaigns. In addition, results can be incorporated into school health courses or be shared with the school’s local public health unit for educational purposes. In addition, each participating school will receive a $200 honorarium for participation directly from CCI Research.
    • For provinces: CSTADS results can help provincial governments and public health officials identify areas of concern and emerging trends which are used in developing and improving programs and policies that will make a positive difference.
    • For the country: Trends are monitored over time and inform the development and evaluation of federal substance use policies and programs. The data collected on experimentation with alcohol and drugs will contribute to the evidence base for decision-making within the framework of Canada’s Drug and Substances Strategy. Over the years, data from the CSTADS have supported positive changes to improve youth health, such as the recent federal ban on flavoured cigarillo products and cannabis legalization.
Participation in CSTADS is totally voluntary by all parties.
  • Visit www.info-cstads.ca to obtain further information about CSTADS, review FAQs, view a copy of the questionnaire and information letters to parents/guardians.
  • CCI Research also has a more detailed project description outlined in a project protocol that can be provided to provinces, school boards and schools upon request.
  • The CSTADS is scheduled to be administered again throughout the 2021-22 school year.
  • Canadian research firm CCI Research has been contracted by Health Canada to conduct this coming year’s survey.
  • We are contacting you to seek your support, which is vital to the success of this year’s survey. Specifically,
    • For Ministries: We seek your formal support for the project in [province] and permission to approach boards (districts/divisions) of education in the province. Additionally, we ask that you provide a signed letter of support for the project that can be used when we approach the boards to provide them with the assurance they may require that the project is supported by the Ministry of Education. Also, we would appreciate your support in providing a list of schools by board with basic information such as number of students by grade and sex to help verify our sampling plan. The final form of support requested would be your cooperation in obtaining contact information for school boards and schools included in the sample.
    • For School Boards: A representative sample of youth in appropriate grades is required, and one or more schools from your school board has been randomly selected to participate in the CSTADS. Your provincial Ministry of Education has provided support for this survey. We now are seeking your formal support and cooperation in signing a letter of support for the project and permission to approach selected schools, as well as assistance in recruiting selected schools.
    • For Schools: A representative sample of youth in appropriate grades is required, and a sample of schools has been randomly selected to participate in CSTADS. Your provincial Ministry of Education and school Board/District/Division (where appropriate) have provided support for this survey. We are seeking the formal support and cooperation of selected schools in participating in the 2021-22 CSTADS. Schools will be asked to appoint a staff member to be a School Administrator who will work with CCI Research to administer the survey at your school.


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