The prevalence of smoking in Canada has decreased significantly over the past couple decades. This is most likely due to government tobacco control laws restricting where smoking is permitted, limiting advertising for tobacco, and requiring health warnings on packages, as well as a rise in prices for cigarettes, and increased awareness among the public of the health impacts of smoking. Smoking increases one’s risk of developing a number of different cancers including lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in Canada. In addition, those who smoke are at a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nevertheless, in 2021 around 3.8 million Canadians smoked currently, daily, or occasionally.
Smoking prevalence in Canada
In 2003, around 23 percent of Canadians were current smokers. However, this number had dropped to just below 12 percent by the year 2021. Smoking in Canada is more common among men than women, but smoking rates have decreased for both over the years. In 2021, around 13 percent of men were current, daily, or occasional smokers, compared to 10 percent of women. The prevalence of smoking in Canada also varies depending on the province or region. For example, almost 15 percent of those living in Newfoundland and Labrador were current smokers in 2020, compared to eight percent in British Columbia. The provinces with the highest rates of smoking are Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba.
Cigarettes are addictive and quitting can be difficult, but it is never too late to quit and decrease the risk of developing smoking-related diseases. For example, after just one year of quitting the risk of having a heart attack is cut in half and after ten years the risk of dying from lung cancer is also halved. In 2020, around 19 percent of Canadians who smoked daily attempted to quit two or three times in the past 12 months, while eight percent attempted to quit four or more times. Most of those who quit or attempted to quit did so simply on their own while 32 percent used nicotine replacement products, 29 percent used an internet-based program, and 27 percent switched to vaping. However, although vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, it is still not a safe alternative.
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