Which part of Canada has the most smokers?

Tobacco smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada.

For the past 25 years, May 31 has been World No Tobacco Day, as declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), with a different theme from year to year. This year’s theme is a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

To mark the day, we’ve pulled together some numbers on tobacco use and its consequences in Canada and around the world.

Among Canadian provinces, smoking rates vary from a low of 15.8 per cent in B.C. to 23.8 per cent in Saskatchewan, according to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey for 2011. As the map above shows, the numbers for Canada’s North are significantly higher.

Smoking rates have been falling for the last quarter-century, but since 2009 the rate of decline has levelled off. In 2011, 5.8 million Canadians 12 years and older smoked, a rate of 19.9 per cent.

Worldwide, there are about 1.1 billion smokers, about 22 per cent of the adult population. About 80 per cent live in low- or middle-income countries.

Our graph showing the total percentage of smokers in Canada by year goes back to 2003, when the rate was 23 per cent, but smoking rates have declined considerably from nearly a half-century ago.
In 1966, 41 per cent of Canadians 15 years and older were smoking.

Significantly more men than women smoke in all age groups, 22.3 per cent compared to 17.5 per cent. However, in the youngest age group, the male and female rates are almost the same.

According to U.S. data, about 80 per cent of high school students who smoke will smoke into adulthood.

The smoking rate in Canada is highest in the 20-24 year age group, for both men and women.

Worldwide, the number of male smokers is about four times the number of female smokers.

Total cigarette sales in Canada numbered 31.1 billion in 2011. That’s down from the 31.7 billion cigarettes sold the year before but higher that the 30.2 billion sold in 2006.

Unlike Canada, worldwide cigarette consumption has been increasing. “Smokers consumed nearly 5.9 trillion cigarettes in 2009, representing a 13 per cent increase in cigarette consumption in the past decade,” according to the Tobacco Atlas, by the World Lung Foundation .

In Canada, three manufacturers control 99.5 per cent of the Canadian tobacco market:

The big three are all owned by multinational corporations. And those three multinationals are highly profitable. For example, British American Tobacco, which owns Imperial Tobacco, had profits totalling $8.3 billion US in 2012.

Canada’s three tobacco giants are currently defending themselves in a $27-billion class-action lawsuit in Montreal.