Overview of Canada’s Tobacco Strategy

Reaching less than 5% use by 2035

Tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of premature death in Canada. While tobacco use has decreased, a significant number of Canadians still use tobacco and cigarette smoking kills 45,000 Canadians each year. The total costs of tobacco use are more than $16B per year. The Government of Canada has announced a target of less than 5% tobacco use by 2035 to reduce the staggering death and disease burden of tobacco use. Reaching this target will save millions of lives and billions of dollars.

The Government of Canada will continue its legislative and regulatory efforts to protect youth and non-smokers, including the enforcement of the recently enacted Tobacco and Vaping Products Act. But we also recognize that more needs to be done. Canada’s Tobacco Strategy represents a shift towards a more comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing tobacco use.

The Strategy will feature broad, population-based approaches needed to achieve the ambitious target of 5% by 2035, and targeted approaches focussed on specific populations suffering from high levels of tobacco use. It recognizes the potential of harm reduction – helping those who can’t or won’t quit using nicotine to identify less harmful options – while continuing to protect young people and non-smokers from inducements to use nicotine and tobacco. It reinvests in research and surveillance, and will provide grants and contributions funding to support our partners in this national challenge. Budget 2018 announced $80.5M in new funding for the Strategy to build on existing resources, bringing our total investment to approximately $330M over the next five years.

What does “Less than 5% by 2035” mean?

Today, there are approximately 4.6 million Canadians (15%) using tobacco, of which approximately 3.9 million are cigarette smokers.

Based on population projections, reducing the rate of tobacco use to less than 5% means there would be fewer than 1.8 million Canadians using tobacco.

Help Canadians Quit Tobacco  

Cessation Support

Nicotine is a powerfully addictive substance. It is not easy to quit smoking and many Canadians are unable to do it on their own. We are committed to working with the provinces and territories to significantly revamp smoking cessation services across the country, to make it easier, faster and more appealing for smokers to access the support and tools they need in a way that best works for them.

Access to More Choice

Traditional cessation approaches are not the only tools available to help Canadians transition away from smoking cigarettes, the most deadly nicotine delivery system. A harm reduction approach aims to reduce the negative consequences of cigarette smoking by recognizing the potential benefits of using less harmful alternatives. The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act now provides adults with legal access to vaping products.

Cessation and Harm Reduction

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (i.e. gums, patches, and lozenges) and pharmaceuticals are currently available to help Canadians looking to quit.

Vaping is less harmful than smoking. Completely replacing cigarettes with a vaping product will significantly reduce a smoker’s exposure to toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. Adults can access vaping products containing nicotine as a less harmful alternative to smoking.

Helping Canadians Most at Risk

Certain groups of Canadians face smoking rates that are considerably higher than the general population and require more targeted action to ensure no one is left behind in Canada’s efforts to reach less than 5% tobacco use by 2035. Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Indigenous Services Canada will expand their reach to groups with higher rates of smoking through increased resources in tobacco programs.

Some Canadians Have Higher Smoking Rates

  • The prevalence of smoking among Indigenous peoples is approximately 2 to 5 times higher than among non-Indigenous Canadians.
  • Smoking prevalence is high among LGBTQ+ persons, with estimates suggesting tobacco use ranges between 24% and 45% across different groups.
  • Young adult males aged 20-24 report the highest prevalence of current cigarette smoking (22%) as compared to other age groups and higher than among females in the same age group (14%).
  • By industry, more than one-third of construction workers smoked in 2011 (34%), followed by mining and oil and gas extraction workers (29%) and transportation and warehousing workers (29%).

Recognizing the unique challenges of addressing commercial tobacco use by Indigenous peoples

Traditional tobacco plays a sacred and ceremonial role in certain First Nations communities; however, the rates of commercial tobacco use continue to be far more prevalent among Indigenous peoples than in the general population. The Government of Canada is working with national and regional Indigenous organizations to co-develop distinct approaches that would address high rates of commercial tobacco use, while recognizing the unique circumstances of Indigenous populations in Canada.

Protect Young People and Non-Tobacco Users

Tobacco and Vaping Product Deterrence

To protect Canada’s youth, the Government of Canada will update and improve the effectiveness of public education resources, including developing a new marketing campaign to educate the most at-risk youth, young adults and their parents of the harms and risks associated with tobacco and vaping products and nicotine addiction.

Further Limiting the Appeal of Tobacco and Vaping Products for Youth and Non-Smokers

Canada is internationally recognized for its leadership and expertise in regulatory action to address smoking and tobacco use. The recently enacted Tobacco and Vaping Products Act will support the implementation of plain packaging measures for tobacco products. We will also explore potential options that could further reduce the appeal and addictiveness of tobacco, including taxation, price interventions, and the regulation of nicotine content.

Enforcing the Law and Combatting Contraband

Canada’s enforcement tools will be updated to stay ahead of changes in the marketplace, such as e-commerce and the promotion of products online. The Government of Canada, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, First Nations, and international law enforcement partners, will continue to enforce the law and undertake independent research to better understand and assess Canada’s evolving contraband tobacco market.

Strengthen our Foundations in Science, Research and Surveillance

The Government of Canada is committed to informed decision-making on policy and programming. Canada’s Tobacco Strategy is reinvesting in science and building an evidence base to underpin all of our actions.

In response to the evolving product landscape, we will increase efforts to further understand how Canadians interact with emerging products.

We will also explore industry accountability, including mechanisms through which the industry could make a direct contribution toward the costs of tobacco control and public health activities.

Collaborate to Drive Progress

Canada’s Tobacco Strategy is the result of significant consultations with partners, stakeholders and Canadians.

Successful implementation of the Strategy depends on strong collaboration and coordinated efforts. The Government of Canada will continue to work with a number of partners, including the provinces and territories, national and regional Indigenous organizations, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, community agencies, health care professionals, and the academic and private sectors.

For more information, please contact Health Canada’s Tobacco Control Directorate

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