The smoking rate among Canadian teenagers has dropped below that of the general population for the first time in almost 10 years

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The smoking rate among teenagers dropped below that of the general population for the first time in almost 10 years, according to the latest results from Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS).

Data show that 18% of teens aged 15 to 19 smoked daily or occasionally last year, down from 22% in 2002. Substantial changes in the smoking behaviour of Quebec and Ontario youth are behind much of the decrease, namely lower smoking rates among boys in Quebec and girls in Ontario.

Overall in Canada, the smoking rate of girls surpassed that of boys by a small margin, with 20% of girls smoking compared with 17% of boys. Teenagers who reported working as their main activity in the past year had a much higher smoking rate than teens who were students, at 33% compared with 15%.

In 2003, the smoking rate among those aged 20 to 24 remained consistently high at 30%.

An estimated 5.3 million Canadians, or 21% of the population aged 15 and older reported smoking in 2003, unchanged from 2002. British Columbia continued to be the province with the lowest smoking rate (16%).

At 13%, smoking is less common among university graduates than among those without a degree (23%). A similar discrepancy in smoking rates was noted along linguistic lines, with individuals who spoke a non-official language in the home less likely to be smokers than those who spoke English or French. Only 12% of non-official language users were smokers, compared with 22% among the rest of the population.

There appears to be a relationship between cigarette smoking and marijuana use. More than half (or 53%) of current smokers had used marijuana more than once in their lifetime, while an additional 6% tried it just once.

Those who had never smoked a whole cigarette were much less likely to have used marijuana; only 10% reported using it more than once and 4% just once. One in four current smokers reported using marijuana in the year preceding the survey, compared with just 1 in 25 cigarette abstainers.

Most current smokers reported having tried to quit in the past two years. Among those who tried quitting, as well as among those who succeeded in quitting in the same period, the most popular method used was reducing the number of cigarettes smoked, followed by the use of a nicotine patch and then making a deal with a friend or family member to quit together. While 48% used more than one method, 18% did not use any preparations or help.

Nearly two thirds of those who worked in the past 12 months stated that smoking at their workplace was completely restricted. The levels of smoking restrictions at the workplace varied by occupation. Only 31% of those working in farming, forestry, fishing or mining reported a total ban of smoking at their workplace compared with 80% of professionals.

More Canadians believe smoking should not be allowed in restaurants and bars. In 2003, half (50%) of Canadians who expressed their opinion felt that smoking should not be allowed anywhere in restaurants. This is up from 44% in 2002. Although those in favour of smoke-free bars and taverns are still a minority, their ranks also grew from 28% in 2002 to 34% in 2003.

The CTUMS, conducted by Statistics Canada on behalf of Health Canada since 1999, provides timely, reliable and continuous data on tobacco use and related issues. The survey's objective is to track changes in smoking status and amount smoked, especially for 15- to 24-year-olds, who are most at risk for taking up smoking. Data cited from before 1999 have been derived from other surveys. This release is based on data obtained from about 21,000 respondents between February and December of 2003. Results referring to marijuana use were obtained between July and December of 2003, and are based on answers from about 11,000 respondents.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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