Tobacco use is on the decline globally, WHO says. Here is where Canada stands  

Click to play video: 'Tobacco use decreasing globally: World Health Organization'
Tobacco use decreasing globally: World Health Organization
WATCH: Tobacco consumption is decreasing around the globe. While policy experts from the Canadian Cancer Society say the trend is encouraging, they have reiterated that vigilance from regulators is key to keeping people from picking up the habit. Katherine Ward reports. – Jan 16, 2024

Tobacco use is on the decline in Canada and globally, the World Health Organization said in a new report Tuesday.

An estimated 1.25 billion people aged 15 and older — or one in five people on the planet — used tobacco in 2022. This was down from 1.36 billion people or one in three in 2000.

By next year, this number is projected to decrease to 1.23 billion and 1.19 billion by 2030, the WHO report said.

In Canada, roughly 11.4 per cent of people aged 15 years and older, or 3.7 million, used tobacco in 2022.

That’s down from 2010 when 18.8 per cent of that age group used tobacco. The global health agency predicts Canada will cut its tobacco use by 44 per cent next year compared to that year.

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“Good progress has been made in tobacco control in recent years, but there is no time for complacency,” said Dr. Ruediger Krech, director of WHO’s department of health promotion, in a statement.

“I’m astounded at the depths the tobacco industry will go to pursue profits at the expense of countless lives.”

Click to play video: 'Canadian provinces pressed to curb smoking in tobacco negotiations'
Canadian provinces pressed to curb smoking in tobacco negotiations

The agency is urging countries to continue implementing polices to curb tobacco use.

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Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society,  said it was “very encouraging” to see global tobacco use declining, including the progress in Canada.

“Things have changed tremendously with respect to smoking in terms of social acceptability,” he said in an interview with Global News.

A comprehensive strategy of higher tobacco taxes, increased regulation and programing has made the difference, resulting in declines in smoking in Canada, Cunningham said.

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Last year, Canada became the first country in the world to require warning labels on individual cigarettes.

Click to play video: 'Canada now first country with warnings on individual cigarettes'
Canada now first country with warnings on individual cigarettes

Health Canada has set a target of bringing tobacco use in the country to under five per cent by 2035.

Cunningham said “much more” remains to be done, including pushing back against the tobacco industry, to get to that objective.

“Tobacco remains a leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada,” Cunningham said, adding that 46,000 Canadians die each year from it.

In addition to the risk of developing lung cancer or heart disease due to direct tobacco use, there is also the risk of second-hand smoke exposure, said Dr. Christian Finley, a thoracic surgeon and professor of surgery at McMaster University.

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“Second-hand smoke exposure is associated with an increasing chance of developing lung cancer yourself,” he said in an interview with Global News.

Despite the declining trend in use, the WHO says tobacco-related deaths can be expected to remain high.

The agency is also concerned about the use of smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes among young people.

In a statement last month, WHO urged governments to treat e-cigarettes similarly to tobacco and ban all flavours.

In Canada, several provinces have taken steps to curb youth vaping.

As of November, there were six provinces and territories that ban or are set to ban most flavours of vape products: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Quebec.

Click to play video: 'Health matters: WHO urges ban on flavoured e-cigarettes'
Health matters: WHO urges ban on flavoured e-cigarettes

In November, Ontario became the latest province in Canada to announce a tax on vapour products, joining British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Meanwhile, some other jurisdictions have indicated an interest in taxing vaping products and are exploring their options.

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Most e-cigarettes and vaping products contain nicotine, which is a stimulant drug found in tobacco.

Health Canada has cautioned that vaping nicotine can “lead to physical dependence and addiction” and expose people to chemicals “that can be harmful to your health.”

The agency advises that young people and those who don’t use tobacco products not vape.

Meanwhile, the introduction of nicotine pouches to the Canadian market has also raised concerns among health experts in the country.

— with files from Reuters, Global News’ Katherine Ward and Katie Dangerfield. 

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