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Smoking in Canada: Challenges and Solutions

With 11.7% of Canadian adults lighting up, smoking in Canada presents ongoing public health challenges. This article cuts through the smoke to offer up-to-date statistics, regulatory developments, and the impact of initiatives targeting tobacco use in Smoking Canada.

Summary: TLDR

  • As of 2022, smoking prevalence in Canada among adults aged 25 and older is 11.7% with a diverse range of tobacco products used, presenting challenges for targeted tobacco control efforts.
  • Several key surveys such as the CCHS, the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Survey, and the CTNS, provide comprehensive data on smoking trends and are instrumental in informing public health initiatives.
  • Canada employs a multifaceted approach to combat tobacco use through health warnings, smoking cessation programs, taxation, and targeted initiatives, alongside strategies to address smoking among individuals with mental health issues.

Canadian Tobacco Landscape

Various tobacco products in Canada
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The persistent issue of tobacco use in Canada is not a new phenomenon. As of 2022, the smoking prevalence rate among adults aged 25 years and older stands at 11.7%. In the same year, 8.2% of Canadians reported daily smoking, while 2.7% engaged in occasional smoking. These figures paint a stark picture of the smoking landscape in Canada.

The types of tobacco products used by Canadians are as diverse as the population itself, ranging from:

This variety, coupled with the narrowing gender gap in smoking prevalence, complicates the tobacco control efforts in Canada.

Smoking Prevalence

The statistics reveal a compelling narrative about smoking prevalence. In 2022, the prevalence of daily and occasional smoking among Canadian adults aged 25 years and older stood at 9.3% and 2.5%, respectively. But the story doesn’t end there. If we delve deeper into the age groups and genders, the narrative becomes even more complex. Canadians aged 15 and older identified as engaging in current smoking, with a higher rate among males (14%) compared to females (11%), and reports indicating 9% of males and 8% of females being daily smokers.

The smoking landscape in Canada has been witnessing a decline over the years. From 16.7% for men and 13.5% for women in 2015, smoking rates decreased to 12% overall in 2021. This trend was also reflected in the smoking rates for individuals over the age of 65, which were 9.7% and 9.1% in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

However, age and gender disparities persist in overall smoking prevalence. Older Canadians aged 25 and older have a smoking rate of 12%, which is significantly higher than the 4% for Canadians aged 15-19. The highest prevalence of cigarette smoking is seen among young adult males aged 20-24, at a staggering 22% compared to other age groups. These stark disparities underscore the need for targeted tobacco control efforts.

Tobacco Products

The Canadian tobacco landscape is not limited to traditional cigarettes. It includes a variety of alternative tobacco products, each with its distinct user base. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, have emerged as a popular choice among many Canadians. These devices produce an inhaled vapor, typically containing nicotine, and are often used as alternatives to traditional cigarette smoking.

Beyond e-cigarettes, Canadians aged 15 years and older also use traditional pipes (0.3%), chewing tobacco (0.6%), and water-pipes (0.6%). This diversity in tobacco product use further complicates the issue, posing distinct challenges for tobacco control efforts in Canada.

Key Surveys and Research on Smoking in Canada

Canadian Community Health Survey
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Addressing the complex issue of smoking necessitates reliance on data and research. Several major surveys and research studies have been conducted over the years, providing invaluable insights into the patterns and trends of tobacco use in Canada.

Canadian Community Health Survey

The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) stands out as a notable survey in this area. This annual survey targets Canadians aged 12 and over, collecting data on health status, health care utilization, and health determinants, including smoking habits. The data collected from this survey provides a comprehensive picture of the health status of Canadians and how it changes over time.

To facilitate detailed analysis of the collected health data, Statistics Canada provides a Public Use Microdata File for the CCHS. This invaluable resource allows interested parties to delve into the data, uncovering patterns and insights that can inform public health efforts and policies, particularly those related to smoking.

Read more: Health Risks Associated with Tobacco

Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Survey

Understanding smoking habits in Canada also hinges on another pivotal tool – the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey. Conducted every two years, this survey collects data from students in grades 7-12 throughout Canada, covering their use of substances including:

  • tobacco
  • vaping products
  • alcohol
  • cannabis
  • other drugs

One concerning trend that the survey has highlighted is the rise in vaping among Canadian youth. This trend has sparked worries about vaping potentially serving as a stepping stone to starting tobacco use. The data from this survey thus helps to identify emerging issues and inform the development of targeted interventions and policies.

Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey

With a specific focus on studying tobacco and nicotine use, the Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey (CTNS) plays a significant role. It aims to gather data on smoking and vaping habits in Canada. This annual survey targets Canadians aged 15 and older, collecting data specifically on their use of cigarettes and vaping products. Established in 2019, the CTNS has taken over the role of the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Survey (CTADS), maintaining a continued focus on tobacco and nicotine use.

Statistics Canada offers the CTNS Public Use Microdata File to support research and analysis. This file facilitates the process of data analysis and research. This resource provides valuable data for understanding Canadian tobacco and nicotine use, helping to inform public health efforts and shape tobacco control policies.

Tobacco Control Efforts in Canada

Health warning labels on tobacco products
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The multi-faceted battle against tobacco in Canada incorporates diverse strategies and policies to combat tobacco use. From health warnings on tobacco products to smoking cessation programs and taxation, the country employs a comprehensive approach to tamp down on tobacco use.

Health Warnings

The use of health warnings on tobacco products represents one of the most conspicuous efforts in tobacco control. Since 2012, health warning labels on tobacco products in Canada have been pictorial, covering 75% of the pack front and back. This approach continued even with the implementation of plain packaging in February 2020.

However, the introduction of plain packaging did not significantly increase the effectiveness of health warning labels. While it reduced the appeal of cigarette packs among smokers, the health warning labels had been in place for eight years and their impact remained largely unchanged.

Despite this, support for plain packaging among Canadian smokers grew after the policy’s implementation, rising from 25.6% in 2018 to 33.7% in 2020. Studies suggest that plain packaging works best synergistically with larger, refreshed health warning labels to lower tobacco pack appeal and increase the impact of health warnings.

Smoking Cessation Programs

A variety of smoking cessation programs are provided in Canada to assist individuals in quitting smoking. These include:

  • Counselling
  • Personalized quit plans
  • Community referrals through provincial and territorial services
  • Quit coach support through a national toll-free number

Organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society also operate programs like the Smokers’ Helpline, which offers 24-hour phone support for individuals looking to quit smoking. Online initiatives like the STOP on the Net in Ontario provide free Nicotine Replacement Therapy delivered by mail to adult smokers.

Additionally, patients have access to resources like the ‘My Change Plan’ workbook, which aids in self-care and informs about smoking cessation medications, behavior change, and relapse prevention. These comprehensive efforts are aimed at creating a supportive environment for smokers to quit and live healthier lives.

Tobacco Sales and Taxation

Besides, the role of taxes and pricing strategies in tobacco control efforts is also significant. A 10% price increase on a pack of cigarettes is estimated to reduce the demand for cigarettes by about 4% among the general adult population in Canada. This impact is more pronounced in reducing smoking among youth, young adults, and individuals of low socioeconomic status.

However, these tax increases are considered regressive, disproportionately affecting lower-income individuals who spend a higher percentage of their income on tobacco products. There are also concerns about potential compensatory smoking behaviors or the use of contraband cigarettes in response to increased cigarette taxation.

Despite these concerns, Canada continues to explore a range of policy options including taxation, pricing strategies, and nicotine content regulation to reduce tobacco’s attractiveness and addictiveness.

Smoking and Mental Health in Canada

Smoking and mental health in Canada
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A critical facet of the overall tobacco landscape in Canada is the relationship between smoking and mental health. Canadian smokers with mental health or substance use disorders represent half of the smoking population, and they exhibit higher smoking rates compared to those without these challenges. Addressing these disparities could significantly reduce the number of Canadian smokers by 1.5 million, lower the overall smoking rate to 13.5%, and create a positive population health impact.

Studies by institutions like the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have found that implementing a tobacco-free environment in a mental health hospital resulted in positive changes in attitudes and a reduction in patient agitation. Such findings indicate the importance of integrating mental health considerations into tobacco control efforts.

Mental Health Disorders and Smoking Rates

A significantly higher prevalence of smoking cigarettes is evident among Canadians who have experienced mental health or substance use disorders in their lifetime. This trend is particularly noticeable in people diagnosed with mood disorders or anxiety disorders, who have a higher smoking prevalence compared to those without such diagnoses. These disparities in smoking rates contribute to health inequalities and the overall tobacco burden. Closing the smoking rate gap between those with and without mental health challenges could have a profound impact on public health in Canada.

This issue is particularly important considering the significant needs for targeted smoking cessation efforts among specific populations. For instance, over one-third of workers in the construction industry, a field with a high prevalence of mental health and substance use challenges, are smokers. Effective interventions specifically catering to such groups could significantly contribute to reaching Canada’s smoking prevalence targets.

Smoking Cessation Strategies for Individuals with Mental Illness

The higher smoking rates among individuals with mental illness underscores the pressing need for tailored smoking cessation tools and strategies. Such strategies must be inclusive and incorporate the unique challenges faced by individuals with mental illnesses.

Some of these tools include a Decisional Balance Sheet, the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence, and a Smoking Diary. These tools, combined with supportive environments and comprehensive treatment plans, can help individuals with mental illnesses overcome tobacco dependence and improve their overall health and well-being.

The Future of Tobacco and Vaping in Canada

Vaping devices and regulations in Canada
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Looking towards the future, the evolution of the fight against tobacco and vaping use in Canada is inevitable. With the government aiming to reduce tobacco use to less than 5% by 2035, there’s an urgent need to:

  • Reevaluate and bolster current health promotion and smoking cessation programs
  • Implement stricter regulations on tobacco and vaping products
  • Increase public awareness about the dangers of tobacco and vaping
  • Provide better access to smoking cessation resources and support

By taking these steps and following Health Canada guidelines, we can work towards a healthier and smoke-free Canada, where fewer people smoke cigarettes.

Vaping Devices and Regulations

Regulation of vaping devices constitutes a significant challenge on the horizon. These devices are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among young people, and their regulation is crucial in shaping citizens’ smoking behaviors and public health outcomes.

Current regulations on vaping devices in Canada include:

  • Restrictions on the age of purchase
  • Sale locations
  • Availability of flavoured products
  • Maximum nicotine levels

However, despite these regulatory efforts, the prevalence of vaping among Canadians aged 15 years and older stood at 5.8% in 2022, indicating both regulated and potentially unregulated usage patterns.

As vaping continues to grow in popularity, tighter regulations are expected, with ongoing research into their health effects and factors contributing to their use. Public opinion research also plays a key role in shaping these regulations, as it captures Canadian perspectives on vaping and can affect adherence to regulatory measures.

Targeted Initiatives for High-Risk Populations

Targeted initiatives for high-risk populations hold paramount importance in the fight against tobacco use. The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) advocates for the development of culturally-responsive health promotion and smoking cessation strategies tailored to populations with higher likelihoods of tobacco use.

Achieving the nationwide goal of reducing tobacco use to less than 5% by 2035 is contingent upon such targeted initiatives. High-risk populations, such as the construction industry where over one-third of its workers are smokers, particularly require these targeted smoking cessation efforts.

In addition to targeted interventions, broader tobacco control strategies are also essential. This includes:

  • Maintaining the status quo regarding the laws, regulations, and taxation on tobacco products
  • Legalizing nicotine-containing vaping devices with specific controls on flavors, packaging, and labeling
  • Improving surveillance to understand the evolving landscape of tobacco usage.


Canada’s battle against tobacco use is a complex issue, riddled with challenges that span across age groups, genders, and socio-economic strata. However, through comprehensive strategies, targeted interventions, and continuous research, the country has made significant strides in reducing smoking prevalence.

As we look towards the future, it’s clear that the fight against tobacco and vaping use will require continuous effort and adaptation. With evolving tobacco products, changing regulations, and the intersection of mental health, it’s a battle that demands our utmost attention. It’s a challenge that we must face head-on, not just for the health of individuals, but for the health of our nation as a whole.

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is smoking in Canada?

In 2021, around 10% of Canadians reported smoking cigarettes on a regular basis, with a slightly higher prevalence among males compared to females. This indicates that smoking is less common in Canada compared to previous years.

What is Canada doing about smoking?

Canada has implemented strict regulations to restrict smoking in the workplace and has banned all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. Additionally, the country has committed significant funds to help Canadians quit smoking and protect youth from the dangers of tobacco use.

What percentage of Canadian smoke?

Currently, approximately 12% of Canadians aged 15 and older smoke cigarettes, with a higher percentage among males than females. This represents a decrease from previous years.

Is smoking in public allowed in Canada?

No, smoking in public is not allowed in Canada. It is banned in indoor public spaces, public transit facilities, and workplaces, including restaurants, bars, and casinos, by all territories and provinces, and by the federal government.

What types of tobacco products are used in Canada?

Canadians use a variety of tobacco products, including traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, traditional pipes, chewing tobacco, and water-pipes. Traditional tobacco products remain popular alongside newer alternatives.