In 2014, 18% of Canadians aged 12 years or older reported smoking daily or occasionally, compared with 23% in 2003. There is some variation across provinces/territories.
The percentage of the population aged 12 or older who reported smoking daily or occasionally in the previous year. Results are presented by province/territory and by sex using data from the 2014 Canadian Community Health Survey.
12%, established to align with the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy’s target.1
The 2009 Cancer System Performance Report.
Why measure this?
Smoking remains the most preventable cause of disease and premature death in Canada. It is estimated that smoking causes 30% of all cancer deaths.2,3 Additionally, smoking causes up to 85% of lung cancer cases and increases the risk of developing a number of other cancers, such as cancers of the mouth and throat, bladder, cervix, colorectum, esophagus, kidney, larynx, pancreas, stomach, nasal cavity, liver and ovary.2,3 Because of the high risks associated with smoking, tobacco control is a key cancer prevention mechanism. Reporting on tobacco use at the population level allows for the assessment of pan-Canadian prevention and cessation strategies.
What are the key findings?
- Current smoking (daily and occasional) prevalence declined from 23.0% in 2003 to 18.1% in 2014 (data not shown).
- Smoking prevalence ranged from 14.3% in British Columbia to 61.7% in Nunavut in 2014. The highest smoking rates were in Canada’s three territories (Figure 1.1).
- No province or territory has yet achieved the 12% target (originally set by the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy) (Figure 1.1).
- Males were more likely to report being daily, occasional or former smokers. Females were more likely to report having never smoked (Figure 1.2).
Why do these findings matter?
Because approximately one in five Canadians aged 12 or older continue to report daily or occasional smoking, prevention and cessation efforts are critical for ongoing reductions in smoking prevalence. Reducing prevalence will in turn reduce the burden of smoking-associated cancers in Canada. The 2007 Federal Tobacco Control Strategy set a goal of reducing overall smoking prevalence to 12% by 2011;1 the Partnership’s national system performance target was set to align with this goal. As of 2014, no province or territory had met this target, meaning it continues to serve as an aspirational goal to motivate smoking reduction efforts across the country. For the target to be met, the absolute smoking prevalence reduction in the provinces or territories would range from 2.3 percentage points in British Columbia to 10.1 in Nova Scotia and 49.7 in Nunavut—large drops that would undoubtedly result in a reduction of the burden of cancer across Canada in years to come.
Flavoured tobacco (including menthol) has been banned in Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and will soon be banned in Ontario and Quebec as well.4 Because flavoured tobacco use is common in teens, banning these products can potentially prevent smoking initiation and help to reduce smoking prevalence as this age group matures.
How does Canada stack up internationally?
It is difficult to compare smoking rates internationally because there is limited standardization in the measurement of smoking habits in different countries. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) measures and compares smoking rates in member countries; however, the OECD’s definition differs from the System Performance definition (the OECD measures the proportion of daily smokers aged 15 or older, while the results in this report are for daily and occasional smokers aged 12 or older). Using the OECD definition, Canada is below the OECD average of 20.9% (data published in 2014). However, lessons could be learned from countries with lower smoking rates, such as Sweden and Iceland, which had the lowest rates.5
- Health Canada. Federal Tobacco Control Strategy (FTCS) [Internet]. Ottawa (ON): Health Canada; 2007 [updated 2011 Nov 06; cited 2015 November 30]. Available from: http://hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/res/news-nouvelles/ftcs-sflt-eng.php.
- Canadian Cancer Society's Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2015. Toronto (ON): Canadian Cancer Society; 2015 May. 150 p.
- American Cancer Society. Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2015-2016. Atlanta (GA): American Cancer Society; 2015. 64 p.
- Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. [OTRU-NET] flavours/menthol – summary of provincial implementation dates [Electronic mailing list message]. Toronto (ON): Ontario Tobacco Research Unit; 2016 [updated 2016 Jan 11].
- OECD. Smoking. OECD Factbook 2014: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics. Paris (FR): OECD Publishing; 2014