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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 2014, 18.1% of Canadians aged 12 and older, roughly 5.4 million people, smoked either daily or occasionally. This is a decrease from 2013 (19.3%) and is the lowest smoking rate reported since 2001. Among the sexes, 21.4% of males and 14.8% of females reported that they smoked daily or occasionally in 2014. For males this was a decrease from 2012 and for females it was a decrease from 2013. The rates of smoking have decreased significantly since 2001 when 28.2% of males and 23.8% of females smoked daily or occasionally (Chart 1).
The majority of smokers, nearly 4.0 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 (52.7%) followed by moderate (28.9%) and then heavy smokers (18.4%; Chart 2). In 2014, males were more likely to be heavy or moderate smokers than females, while females were more likely to be light smokers than males.
The percentage of daily or occasional smokers was the lowest for youths aged 12-17 (4.3%) and seniors aged 65 and older (9.4%). The proportion of males who were smokers was higher than females for all ages starting at age 20. Between 12 and 19, there was no difference between the sexes (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 (85.5%) compared to youth aged 12 to 17 (46.1%). Non-smokers in these age groups were different as well: 60.3% of senior non-smokers were actually former smokers, compared with 5.4% 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 2014, 55.0% of Canadians aged 20 to 24 had never smoked which is significantly higher than the 39.0% of 20 to 24 year olds who never smoked in 2001.
In the 20 to 24 age group, the rate for never smoking was higher for females (62.9%) than for males (47.7%) in 2014. 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. The rate for both sexes for those who have never smoked was a significant increase 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 (18.1%) in:
- Ontario (17.4%)
- British Columbia (14.3%)
The percentage of residents who smoked daily or occasionally was higher than the national average in:
- Newfoundland and Labrador (21.7%)
- Nova Scotia (22.1%)
- New Brunswick (20.9%)
- Quebec (19.6%)
- Saskatchewan (20.5%)
- Yukon (26.2%)
- Northwest Territories (33.3%)
- Nunavut (62.0%)
Residents of the other provinces reported rates that were about the same as the national average.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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