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Canadian tobacco statistics

According to Health Canada’s Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS) about 4.2 million Canadians 15 years of age and older were smokers in 2013. This represents about 15% of the population, which is the lowest national smoking rate ever recorded.

The 2013 CTADS survey also showed that:

  • The percentage of current smokers went down to 15% in 2013 from 25% in 1999.
  • 11% of Canadians reported smoking daily and 4% reported smoking occasionally.
  • More men smoke than women. About 16% of men and 13% of women 15 years of age and older were current smokers.

Smoking rates in Canada

The table below shows smoking rates for Canadians from the 2013 CTADS.

Age groupSmoking ratesSex differences

youth

(age 15–19)

About 11% of youth were current smokers in 2013. This was the lowest rate for this age group since Health Canada first reported on smoking prevalence.

The smoking rate for this age group was similar to the 2012 rate, but has gone down significantly from the 22% in 2001.

Slightly more young men (13%) were current smokers compared to young women (8%).

young adults

(age 20–24)

About 18% of young adults were current smokers.

The smoking rate for this age group was similar to the 2012 rate, but the rate was down from the 32% reported in 2001.

More men (13%) were current smokers compared to women (8%).

adults

(age 25 and older)

About 15% of adults were current smokers.

The smoking rate for this age group was basically the same as 2012 rate. However, the rate has dropped from the 21% reported in 2001.

More men (16%) were current smokers compared to women (14%).

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Provincial smoking trends

Current smoking rates varied by province. British Columbia had the lowest rate (11%) of current smokers 15 years of age and older. The Atlantic provinces had the highest rate (20%).

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Trends in youth smoking

Most Canadians who smoke had their first cigarette as a pre-teen or teen. Young Canadians 12–24 years of age are most at risk for taking up smoking.

Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey

In 2013, CTADS reported that 5% of young people 15–19 years of age reported smoking daily and 6% smoked occasionally. About 11% of youth in this age group were current smokers in 2013, which was unchanged from 2012. This is the lowest rate of current smokers ever reported for this age group since Health Canada started reporting on smoking prevalence. Youth 15–19 years of age reported smoking an average of 9.2 cigarettes a day.

Youth Smoking Survey

Health Canada’s Youth Smoking Survey (YSS) looks at tobacco use in youth in grades 6–12. The most recent survey (2012–2013) found that the rate of current smokers in this group has gone down since the 2010–2011 survey. About 4% of youth in grades 6–12 were current smokers in 2010–2011, which is down from 6% in 2010–2011.

The 2012–2013 YSS also found that most young people (74%) in grades 6–12 had never tried smoking cigarettes, not even a puff. This is a sizeable increase from the 2008–2009 survey rate of 67%.

While this trend is positive, the number of young people trying tobacco products increases with age and grade. According to the 2012–2013 YSS:

  • 13% of youth in grades 6–9 reported having ever tried a tobacco product.
  • 33% of youth in grades 6–12 reported having ever tried a tobacco product.
  • The average age at which youth reported smoking a whole cigarette for the first time was 13.6 years.
  • Cigarettes are still the most common form of tobacco product that youth tried.

The increasing variety of tobacco products available in Canada has made them more attractive to youth. Many of these tobacco products are heavily flavoured. These include little cigars or cigarillos, water pipe tobacco, menthol cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. Fruit and candy-flavoured tobacco makes it easier for youth to become addicted. The 2012–2013 YSS reports that the number of youth using flavoured tobacco products in the past 30 days was 8%. There was also an increase in the number of youth in grades 6–12 using a water pipe to smoke flavoured tobacco in the past 30 days from 13% in 2010–2011 to 17% in the 2012–2013 YSS. These statistics show that there is an urgent need for federal and provincial governments to ban all flavoured tobacco products to protect Canadian youth.

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Tobacco consumption

According to the 2013 CTADS, people who smoked every day reported smoking an average of 13.9 cigarettes each day. This rate has gone down slightly since the average of 15 cigarettes each day reported in 2012.

Men smoked an average of 15.2 cigarettes a day. Women smoked an average of 12.5 cigarettes a day.

Cigar use

Based on the 2013 CTADS, about 3% of Canadians 15 years of age and older reported smoking any type of cigar (regular cigar, little cigar or cigarillo) in the past 30 days. Five per cent of youth (15–19) and 7% of young adults (20–24) reported smoking any type of cigar.

Most new users of cigars or little cigars are teenagers and young adults. Little cigars are about the same size as cigarettes, but often cost less than cigarettes because they can be sold singly or in smaller packages. Little cigars are often flavoured, which also makes them attractive to youth. Making little cigars less appealing to youth would help lower the rate of smoking cigars in this age group.

The 2013 CTADS reported that 62% of youth 15–19 years of age who smoked little cigars in the past 30 days smoked flavoured ones. About 19% smoked both the flavoured and unflavoured types.

The 2010–2011 YSS reported that 2% of youth in grades 6–9 and 9% of those in grades 10–12 reported using little cigars in the past 30 days. These rates have decreased from 2008–2009.

While the results of the 2013 CTADS and the 2010–2011 YSS show that teenagers continue to try little cigars, both surveys also show a drop in little cigar use from 2007. Health Canada will continue to look at the use of little cigars. One of the main goals of the Canadian government’s Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act is to make little cigars less appealing to youth.

Water pipe use

Water pipes are also called hookahs or shishas. According to the 2013 CTADS, about 10% of Canadians (about 2.8 million people) 15 years of age and older reported having ever tried a water pipe. This rate shows an increase from the 8% reported in 2011 and the 4% reported in 2006.

  • 14% of teenagers 15–19 years of age reported having ever tried a water pipe. This shows an increase from the 6% reported for this age group in 2006.
  • 29% of young adults 20–24 years of age reported having ever tried a water pipe. This shows an increase from the 11% reported for this age group in 2006.

Smoking tobacco in a water pipe is at least as harmful as smoking cigarettes. Canadians who reported using a water pipe during the past 30 days were asked about their beliefs regarding the risks and benefits of smoking a water pipe compared to cigarettes.

  • 34% thought that smoking tobacco in a water pipe was more harmful.
  • 28% thought that smoking tobacco in a water pipe wasn’t more or less harmful.
  • 38% thought that smoking tobacco in a water pipe was less harmful.

Water pipes pose a new threat for youth to become addicted to tobacco. Water pipe tobacco is heavily flavoured and many youth who are otherwise non-smokers are smoking water pipes. According to the 2010–2011 YSS:

  • Overall, 6% of youth in grades 6–12 reported ever tried a water pipe (hookah) to smoke tobacco.
  • 3% of youth 15–19 years of age used a water pipe to smoke tobacco in the last 30 days.

Smokeless tobacco use

The rate of young Canadians who used smokeless tobacco products (such as chewing tobacco or snuff) had not changed significantly since 2011. According to the 2013 CTADS, 8% of Canadians (15 and older), 6% of youth (15–19) and 10% of young adults (20–24) reported ever using smokeless tobacco.

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Cigarette sources

The 2013 CTADS reported that most current smokers bought their cigarettes from a small grocery or corner store or at gas stations. Among current smokers 15 years of age and older:

  • 42% bought discount-brand cigarettes at a grocery store.
  • 11% bought cigarettes from a gas station
  • 10% bought cigarettes from a First Nations reserve.
  • 2% reported buying cigarettes that may have been smuggled.

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