Media backgrounder #2: Facts on tobacco

14 June 2013

Toronto -

  • Tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, causing 37,000 Canadian deaths each year.
  • Every day, on average, 70 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer, and 55 Canadians will die of the disease. In 2013, there will be 25,500 new cases of lung cancer and 20,200 lung cancer deaths.
  • Smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths and approximately 85% of lung cancer deaths. It is linked with an increased risk for many cancers, including lung, larynx, oral, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, ovarian, cervix, colorectal, pharynx, esophagus, nasal cavity, bone marrow and hepatoblastoma (a childhood cancer).
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women and accounts for more deaths than for breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined.

Estimated number of deaths by type of cancer, Canada, 2013


  • In men, the incidence and death rates for lung cancer began to level off in the mid-1980s and have been declining ever since. In women, the lung cancer incidence and death rates are only now stabilizing. The difference in rates between men and women is thought to be due primarily to the fact that women’s smoking rates did not begin to decline until the 1980s, whereas in men, smoking rates began to decline in the 1960s.
  • On average, one in 11 men is expected to develop lung cancer during his lifetime and one in 13 will die of it. One in 15 women is expected to develop lung cancer during her lifetime and one in 18 will die of it.

Smoking rates

In 1965:

  • 50% of Canadians over the age of 15 were smokers.
  • 61% of men over the age of 15 were smokers, declining to 20% in 2010.
  • 38% of women over the age of 15 were smokers, declining to 14% in 2010.

Smoking in youth

  • In 2011, smoking among youth aged 15–19 years was 12% (approximately 256,000 teens).
  • 13% of males and 11% of females aged 15–19 years were current smokers.

For help with quitting

Smokers wanting support to quit can call the national toll-free number at 1-866-366-3667 or visit gosmokefree.gc.ca/quit

For 75 years the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. Visit cancer.ca or call us at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Brooke Kelly

Communications Coordinator

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: 416-934-5321