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Smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and other conditions.Note 1 According to the World Health Organization, smoking is an important and preventable cause of death.Note 2
In 2012, 20.3% of Canadians aged 12 and older, roughly 5.9 million people, smoked either daily or occasionally— 23.1% of males and 17.5% of females. The rates of smoking in 2012 are about the same as in 2011, but are significantly lower than in 2008. For males, the rate in 2008 was 24.3%, and for females the rate was 18.5% (Chart 1).
Of the 5.9 million smokers in 2012, the majority, nearly 4.5 million, smoked cigarettes on a daily basis. Daily smokers can be classified as heavy, moderate or light smokers based on how many cigarettes they smoke per dayNote 3. Light smokers were the most common type of daily smoker (53.0%) followed by moderate (28.6%) and then heavy smokers (18.5%; Chart 2). In 2012, males were more likely to be heavy or moderate smokers while females were more likely to be light smokers.
Overall, the percentage of daily or occasional smokers was highest for Canadians in the 20 to 34 age group. Males were more likely than females to smoke either daily or occasionally in the 20 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54 age groups. There was no significant difference between the sexes for the other age groups (Chart 3).
Although the lowest smoking rates were at both ends of the age spectrum (chart 3), the types of smokers were different. Seniors (aged 65 and over) were more likely to smoke daily (85.8%) compared to youth aged 12 to 17 (51.7%). Non-smokers in these age groups were different as well: 61.5% of senior non-smokers were actually former smokers, compared with 5.7% of non-smokers aged 12 to 17.
People typically begin smoking during their teenage yearsNote 4, so the percentage of Canadians who have not started smoking by age 20 is an indicator of future smoking rates. In 2012, 53.1% of Canadians aged 20 to 24 had never smoked, unchanged since 2010, though an increase from 45.8% in 2008.
In the 20 to 24 age group, the rate for never smoking was higher for females (60.4%) than for males (46.1%) in 2012. The rate has been significantly higher for females most years since 2001, with the exception of 2005 and 2007 when the rates were about the same as for males. Both rates for those who have never smoked are significant increases from 2001 when the rate was 41.9% for females and 36.2% for males (Chart 4).
The percentage of residents who smoked daily or occasionally was lower than the national average (20.3%) in:
- Ontario (19.0%)
- British Columbia (14.5%)
The percentage of residents who smoked daily or occasionally was higher than the national average in:
- Newfoundland and Labrador (26.1%)
- Nova Scotia (23.7%)
- New Brunswick (23.7%)
- Quebec (23.8%)
- Yukon (29.4%)
- Northwest Territories (35.8%)
- Nunavut (54.3%)
Residents of the other provinces reported rates that were about the same as the national average.
- Shields, Margot. 2005. “The journey to quitting smoking.” Health Reports. Vol. 16, no. 3. May. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 19. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/studies-etudes/82-003/archive/2005/7839-eng.pdf (accessed May 11, 2010).
- World Health Organization. 2008. WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: The MPOWER Package. Geneva.
- Daily smokers are classified by how many cigarettes they reported smoking per day:
Heavy: 25 or more cigarettes per day,
Moderate: 15 to 24 cigarettes per day, and
Light: 14 or fewer cigarettes per day.
- Chen Jiajian and Wayne J. Millar, 1998. “Age of smoking initiation: Implications for quitting.” Health Reports. Vol. 9, no. 4. April. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 39-46. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/1997004/article/3685-eng.pdf (accessed May 10, 2013).
Shields, Margot. 2007. “Smoking bans: Influence on smoking prevalence.” Health Reports. Vol. 18, no. 3. August. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 9–24. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003x/2006008/article/smoking-tabac/10306-eng.pdf (accessed May 11, 2010).
Shields, Margot. 2005. “The journey to quitting smoking.” Health Reports. Vol. 16, no. 3. May. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p.19–36. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/studies-etudes/82-003/archive/2005/7839-eng.pdf (accessed May 11, 2010).
Shields, Margot. 2005. “Youth smoking.” Health Reports. Vol.16, no. 3. May. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 53–57. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/studies-etudes/82-003/archive/2005/7840-eng.pdf (accessed May 11, 2010).
World Health Organization. 2008. WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: The MPOWER Package. Geneva.
Additional data from the Canadian Community Health Survey are available from CANSIM table 105–0501.