ACTIVE LIFE: Fewer Canadians trying to butt out

NANAIMO – Decades of anti-smoking campaigns have steadily and successfully whittled the rate of smokers in Canada.

Decades of anti-smoking campaigns have steadily and successfully whittled the rate of smokers in Canada from half the population in 1965 to less than 20 per cent in 2011.

On the other hand, almost five million Canadians still smoke tobacco, and the rate of decline has slowed in recent years.

A Conference Board of Canada report, Profile of Tobacco Smokers in Canada, identifies the segments of the Canadian population that have struggled to kick the habit.

“It appears that, as the saying goes, the low-hanging fruit has been picked. Further reductions in smoking will need to target the segments of our population where the smoking rate is still high – lower-income Canadians, in some blue-collar occupations and in industries such as construction,” said Louis Thériault of the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care, which conducted the research.

“Most smokers work, so one of the best opportunities to help smokers break the habit is through smoking cessation programs in the workplace.”

By province, B.C. (14.2 per cent) had the lowest smoking rates in the country, while Quebec had the highest percentage of its population as smokers (19.8 per cent) followed by Saskatchewan (19.2 per cent) in 2011.

All four Atlantic provinces had smoking rates of between 18.1 per cent and 19.1 per cent. Manitoba’s smoking rate was 18.7 per cent, while the rate dropped to 17.7 per cent in Alberta and then Ontario (16.3 per cent).

Three quarters of current smokers are employed, so the workplace is potentially an effective place to increase understanding about the health risks of tobacco and implement smoking cessation programs.

By industry employees, more than one-third of construction workers smoked in 2011 (34 per cent), followed by mining and oil and gas extraction (29 per cent) and transportation and warehousing (29 per cent).