Teen smoking rate drops but overall rate unchanged, survey finds
Fewer teens lit up last year, as their smoking rate fell below that of the general population for the first time in almost a decade, Statistics Canada says.
The twice-yearly tobacco use monitoring survey found that 18 per cent of teens aged 15 to 19 smoked last year, down from 22 per cent in 2002.
Girls were more likely (20 per cent) to light up than boys (17 per cent), but drops in smoking among Quebec boys and Ontario girls accounted for much of the over-all decrease.
Overall, about 5.3 million Canadians â€” about 21 per cent of the population over 15 â€” smoked last year, a percentage virtually unchanged since 2002. The survey found that working teens were more likely to smoke than student teens and that university graduates were less likely to smoke than those without a degree.
"The results of this survey are encouraging," said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society.
He said the drop in teen smoking is likely the result of a number of things, including higher taxes, graphic visual warnings on packages, advertising and promotion restrictions and bans on smoking in the workplace and in public places.
Cunningham said a new threat to the anti-smoking movement is discount cigarettes.
The cut-rate smokes, which sell for at least a dollar a pack less than regular brands, have traditionally held only 1 or 2 per cent of the market, but that has changed in recent months.
In the second quarter of the year, discount cigarettes made up 28 per cent of the market and one major tobacco company has predicted they'll soon account for 40 per cent.
"Our recommended response to this ... is to increase tobacco taxes," he said. "There's new room for governments to increase tobacco taxes."