Despite many effective public health measures, such as advertising bans and bans on smoking in public places, 13% of Canadians, 4.6 million people, still smoke.
In 2013, Canada’s smokers puffed their way through 31,468,800,000 cigarettes. 37,000 of them died as a result of smoking.
In 2015 there were 201,000 Canadians age 15 – 19 who smoked. Three-quarters of them will likely continue to smoke into adulthood, and roughly half of those, 75,00 people will die early from smoking-related diseases.
The national government has set a minimum legal age for buying tobacco at 18, but several provinces and territories have local regulations which increase the age to 19.
Update: 2015 data:
In January 2017 Terry Lake, the minister of Health in BC, tweeted about raising the age on tobacco in BC, and there was then a similar discussion in Alberta. Tobacco21.ca has created a petition to the Health Minister to “Protect Canadian Teenagers from Tobacco by Raising the Smoking Age to 21“. but so far she shows no sign of pursuing this course of action. There will, however, be a national forum on federal tobacco strategy in Ottawa Feb 28 – Mar 2nd 2017.
Canada has been a world leader in creating smoke-free workplaces and in banning smoking in public places. Canada also lead the way with graphic health warnings on cigarettes, and Prime Minister Trudeau has directed the federal Minister of Health to “Introduce plain packaging requirements for tobacco products, similar to those in Australia and the United Kingdom”. This process seems to be moving forward. But the USA already has Tobacco 21 laws which encompass over 60 million people, while Canada has none.
Canada could introduce Tobacco 21 legislation piecemeal (province by province, or even municipality by municipality), much as the US is doing. Or, preferably, it could seize this opportunity to set an example for the world by making it illegal for people under 21 to buy tobacco products anywhere in Canada.