Smoking in Canada has been decreasing over the past few decades with people increasingly aware of the health risks associated with smoking. The government’s tobacco control laws, together with increased prices, have also helped to reduce the number of smokers in Canada.

This article explores the statistics on smoking in Canada. You will find information on how many Canadians smoke cigarettes and other tobacco products, the number of people who have quit smoking, and health risks and mortality rates associated with smoking.

Smoking Statistics for Canadians

  • Around 3.2 million Canadians were either regular or occasional cigarette smokers in 2021.
  • The rate of smokers in Canada has fallen from 28.4% in 2000 to 10.2% in 2021.
  • 8% of Canadians aged over 25 smoke cigarettes.
  • 8% of Canadian young adults are cigarette smokers.
  • 3% of young people (aged 15-19) smoke cigarettes in Canada.
  • Men are more likely to smoke cigarettes than women in all age groups.
  • People in Alberta are the least likely Canadians to smoke.
  • Over 7 million Canadians have quit smoking.
  • The percentage of young adults who have never smoked increased between 2015 and 2019.
  • There are over 37,000 smoking-related deaths per year in Canada.
  • A cigarette contains at least 70 chemicals that increase the risk of cancer.

Smoking in Canada

According to a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, around 3.2 million Canadians over 15 years of age, smoked in 2021. This is approximately 10.2% of the population and the percentage was the same as in the previous year. Men are more likely to smoke than women. Around 11.8% of men were smokers in 2021 compared to 8.5% of women. That is 1.8 million men and 1.3 million women.

Around 2.4 million or 7.8% of Canadians were daily smokers and the rest, 2.5% or 758,000 were occasional smokers. Men were more often regular smokers than women with 8.7% of men smoking daily compared to 6.6% of women. This represents 1.3 million and 1 million of the population respectively.

How Has the Number of Smokers Changed in Canada?

Since the millennia, the number of smokers has decreased rapidly in Canada. In 2000, 28.4% of the population still said they were smoking daily or occasionally. By 2005, the rate had fallen by almost 5% to 23.3%. From there, it has continued to fall, dropping to 19.3% in 2010 and 15.8% in 2015. The last survey showed there were just 10.2% of smokers in Canada showing the rate has fallen to almost a third since the new millennium.

Smoking Among Canadian Adults

10.8% of Canadian adults aged 25 and older were smoking cigarettes in both 2021 and 2020. This is around 2.8 million adults. Once again, there were more smokers among adult Canadian men than women with 12.3% (1.6 million) and 9.2% (1.2 million), respectively.

Almost four times as many adults are daily smokers with 8.5% saying they smoke every day compared to 2.3% who some irregularly. That is 2.3 million daily smokers and 595,000 occasional smokers. Adult men are more likely to be daily smokers. 9.6% of men smoke every day, compared to 7.4% of women. That is 1.2 daily smokers among adult men and 987,000 among adult women.

Cigarette Smoking Among Young Adults in Canada

In 2021, as in 2020, 9.8% or 236,000 Canadians aged between 20 and 24 years were smoking. Young men were again more likely to be smokers than young women at 13.2% compared to 6.1%, which is 165,000 and 70,000 of the young men and women in Canada.

Among this age group, both daily and occasional smoking was equally prevalent at 4.9%, which is around 118,000 young Canadian adults in each group, Daily smoking was more common among young adult men at 6.5% or 81,000 than among women at 3.1% or 36,000.

Cigarette Smoking Among 15-19-Year-Olds in Canada

In Canada, around 3.3% of Canadians aged between 15 and 19 years were smoking either daily or irregularly. This is around 68,000 young people and the figure was unchanged from 2020. 1.1% of these young people said they smoke every day and 2.2% were smoking only occasionally.

Use of Other Tobacco Products in Canada

While smoking cigarettes is the most common tobacco product in Canada, there are other tobacco products available, too. These include little cigars, normal cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes, and water-pipe tobacco.

Around 3.6 million Canadians older than 15 years had used at least one type of tobacco product in the past 30 days according to the 2021 survey, representing 11.9% of the 15+ population. The prevalence was the lowest among young people aged 15-19 at 5.3% and highest among young adults, 20-24-year-olds, at 12.7%. 12.3% of adults aged 25 or older had used tobacco products within 30 days.

  • Cigars: 2.3% of Canada’s population aged 15 or over had smoked either regular-size or little cigars in the 30 days before the 2021 survey. Young adults were the most likely age group to have smoked cigars at 3.6%, followed by young people at 2.6%, and adults over 25 at 2.1%. Men were more likely to smoke cigars at 3.5% compared to just 1% of women.
  • Pipe: Only 0.3% of Canadians who were at least 15 years of age had smoked tobacco using a traditional pipe during the last 30 days.
  • Chewing tobacco: The percentage of Canadians aged 15 or over who had used chewing tobacco was 0.4%.
  • Water-pipe tobacco: The percentage of water-pipe smokers was also 0.4%.

Smoking Across Canada

Smoking cigarettes was the most prevalent in Manitoba, with 12.8% of the province’s population saying they smoke daily or occasionally. The provinces with the highest smoking rates overall are Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The lowest prevalence was in Alberta at 8.2%. The number of people who had used at least one type of tobacco product in the last 30 days was also the lowest in Alberta at 9.7%. It was the highest, at 15.8% in Nova Scotia.

When Are Canadians Most Likely to Start Smoking?

Most Canadians who smoke or have smoked in the past started smoking when they were teenagers. This means that looking at the number of people smoking at the age of twenty can indicate the smoking rates in the future. 63.1% of young adults in Canada had never smoked in 2019.

The rate of people who had never smoked was higher among young women than young men at 70.2% compared to 57.1%. The number of young adults who had never smoked a cigarette or used other tobacco products had increased from 2015 when it was 57.9% showing that Canadian young people are less likely to try smoking than before.

Health Risks Linked to Smoking

Smoking tobacco has been linked to over two dozen diseases and health conditions with strong medical evidence. It is the leading cause of preventable deaths in Canada and affects people in all age groups either through direct or indirect smoking. Some of the most serious health risks from tobacco smoking include:

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in Canada, while smoking is the number one preventable cause of lung cancer. It accounts for 85% of new lung cancer cases in Canada.
  • Other cancers such as cancers throat, mouth, voice box, and esophagus cancers have also been linked to smoking. Smoking can also increase the risk of leukemia, as well as bladder, kidney, stomach, and pancreas cancers. In women, it also increases the risk of cervical cancer.
  • Respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, and emphysema are more common in smokers than non-smokers. It also increases a range of respiratory symptoms, including, wheezing, coughing, and laboured breathing.
  • Smoking also increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases throughout the body and in the brain. These include angina, heart attack, blockages in the veins, and strokes.

Smoking-Related Mortality in Canada

In Canada, over 37,000 people die from smoking-related causes every year. That means around 100 smoking-related deaths per day. Smoking is linked to approximately 30% of deaths from cancer in Canada.

While most of these deaths are among smokers, the number also includes deaths from second-hand smoking. Over 300 people who have been exposed to secondhand smoke will die of lung cancer and around 700 of coronary heart disease.

More People Are Quitting Smoking in Canada

In 2021, 22.7% of Canadians were former smokers. That is 7 million Canadians who have stopped smoking. Around 4.1% of the former smokers, had stopped smoking in the last twelve months. 5.9% had been smoke-free for at least one year but less than two years, 7.8% stopped three to five years ago, and 82.2% had not smoked for more than five years.

Most Canadians who had stopped or tried to stop smoking had done it on their own at 64.4% and 51.4% had reduced the number of cigarettes gradually rather than stopping immediately. 27.7% of ex-smokers or those who had tried to stop using nicotine replacement products. 38.3% of current daily smokers had tried to quit at least once during the last twelve months. The vast majority of non-smoking Canadians, at 48.2%, are people who have never smoked.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking

The first positive effects in the body occur just eight hours after the last cigarette when the level of carbon monoxide drops and the blood’s oxygen level returns to normal. Already after 48 smoke-free hours, the chances of a heart attack start to fall and the sense of smell and taste start to improve. Lung capacity increases after 72 hours.

Between two weeks and three months after quitting, blood circulation becomes better and lung functioning improves by 30%. A year after quitting, the risk of having a smoking-related heart attack is halved, in ten years the risk of lung cancer is halved, and after fifteen years the risk of heart attack has fallen to the same level as for a person who has never smoked.

Tobacco Industry in Canada

Since Canadians have been quitting or not starting smoking, the revenues from the tobacco industry have decreased in Canada from $3.3 billion in 1998 to $1.4 billion in 2007. This is around an 8% decline per year. In 2001, there were 42,087,329,210 cigarettes sold in Canada. By 2019, this number had fallen to 23,895,350,226.

Chemicals in Tobacco

There are over 4,000 chemicals in tobacco and at least 70 of them cause, promote, or initiate cancer. These chemicals include carbon monoxide, arsenic, ammonia, tar, benzopyrene, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead, styrene, and oxides of nitrogen.

While each cigarette only contains a small amount of chemicals, the effect of smoking is cumulative, meaning the amount of toxins in the body increases with each cigarette. A smoker, who smokes a pack of cigarettes each day, inhales on average 73,000 puffs of toxic chemicals in a year.

Conclusion

Smoking has become far less common in Canada since the Millennium with young people less likely to take up smoking. The number of young adults who have never smoked has increased by over 5% since 2015.

Because smoking is linked to many serious illnesses and is the leading cause of premature deaths in Canada, quitting smoking has several health benefits and can improve a person’s life expectancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

10.2% of Canadians aged 15 or over are either everyday or occasional smokers, which is around 3.2 million Canadians.

Over 7 million Canadians had given up smoking in 2021.

Around 100 Canadians die from smoking-related causes every day, which is around 37,000 per year.

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