Smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and other conditions1. According to the World Health Organization, smoking is an important and preventable cause of death2.
In 2011, 5.8 million (19.9%) Canadians aged 12 and older smoked either daily or occasionally — 22.3% of males and 17.5% of females (Chart 1). For males, this was a significant decrease from 24.2% in 2010, but a return to about the same level as in 2009. For females there was no change from 2009, though it was a significant decrease from 18.5% in 2008.
Source: Canadian Community Health Survey, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.
Among both sexes, the percentage of daily or occasional smokers was highest in the 20 to 34 age group. Males were more likely than females to smoke either daily or occasionally in all age groups, with the exception of those 12 to 17 years of age, 18 to 19 years of age, and those aged 65 and older. There was no significant difference between the sexes for these three age groups (Chart 2).
Although the lowest smoking rates were at both ends of the age spectrum (chart 2), the types of smokers were different. Among seniors who were smokers, 86.3% smoked daily, while 47.6% of smokers aged 12 to 17 did so. Non-smokers in these age groups were different as well: 60.0% of senior non-smokers were actually former smokers, compared with 7.5% of non-smokers aged 12 to 17.
Source: Canadian Community Health Survey, 2011.
People typically begin smoking during their teenage years, so the percentage of Canadians who have not started smoking by age 20 is an indicator of future smoking rates. In 2011, 52.4% of Canadians aged 20 to 24 had never smoked, about the same as in 2009, though an increase from 45.8% in 2008 (Chart 3).
Source: Canadian Community Health Survey, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 2011.
The percentage of residents who smoked was below the national average only in British Columbia (15.8%). Smoking rates in Quebec (21.0%), Saskatchewan (23.8%), Alberta (21.7%), Yukon (29.3%), Northwest Territories (34.9%) and Nunavut (59.7%) were significantly above the national average. In the other provinces, the percentages were not significantly different from the national rate.
Shields, Margot. 2007. “Smoking bans: Influence on smoking prevalence.” Health Reports. Vol. 18, no. 3. August. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. pages 9–24. /pub/82-003-x/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. pages 19–36. /studies-etudes/82-003/archive/2005/7839-eng.pdf (accessed May 11, 2010).
Shields, Margot. 2005. “Youth smoking.” Health Reports. Vol.16, nno 3. May. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 53–57. /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.