Report suggests tobacco smoking rates will drop to below 10% in about 20 years

Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2018

Stop smoking

Ontario will achieve "single digit" tobacco smoking rates (under 10 per cent) by 2023 for women, and 2040 for men, according to a new big data report conducted jointly by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and The Ottawa Hospital.

“This report is unique because we were able to combine tobacco smokers with their healthcare use. We looked at when people started and stopped smoking over their lifetime to create a realistic model of smoking in Ontario over the past 60 years. Using this, we were not only able to look at the past, but project into the future,” says Dr. Doug Manuel, lead author and senior scientist at ICES, The Ottawa Hospital, and professor at the University of Ottawa.

uOttawa professor Doug Manuel

Photo credit : The Ottawa Hospital


Tobacco smoking is a leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality worldwide. In Canada, tobacco smoking-attributable mortality increased between 2002 and 2012, and in 2012, more than 45,000 deaths were caused by smoking with the direct health care costs of tobacco use estimated at $6.5 billion.

The report found that the number of people who have ever been tobacco smokers has dropped by half over time, with only 30 per cent of men born in 1990 becoming smokers by age 20, compared to 60 per cent of men who were born before 1950. Similarly, only 20 per cent of women born in 1980 became smokers as adults, compared to 40 per cent of women born in 1960.

The report also shows that sociodemographic factors play a role in who starts smoking and who doesn’t: men and women who do not complete high school will be two or three times more likely to smoke in 2041 compared to those who have university educations.

  • 17.6 per cent of women with less than a high school education smoked versus 5.0 per cent of women who were post-secondary graduates. 
  • 16.3 per cent of men with less than a high school education smoked versus 6.8 per cent of men who were post-secondary graduates.

“Our report clearly demonstrates that stop-smoking efforts need to be better targeted to all groups, particularly those at highest risk of becoming smokers," says Manuel.

The report looked at administrative health records housed at ICES for all adult Ontario men and women beginning in the year 1960, making projections all the way up to 2041.

The report found:

  • In 2003, tobacco smoking accounted for 9.5 per cent of all health spending in Ontario. By 2041, if the decrease in tobacco smoking rates continues, the researchers say this proportion will drop by more than one-third, to 5.9 per cent of total health spending.
  • Between 2003 and 2041, there will be an estimated $51-billion reduction in tobacco smoking-attributable health care expenditures in Ontario.
  • Despite this reduction, tobacco smoking-attributable health care expenditures will amount to $164 billion between 2003 and 2041.

“Tobacco smoking profoundly affects not only health but also almost all aspects of health care. Smoking harms nearly every organ and system in the body. Diseases directly related to smoking are a major source of hospital admission, but even seemingly unrelated admissions are also affected. A person who smokes and has hip surgery will have a greater risk of complications, slower recovery and more likely to require the surgery be redone than a non-smoker,” added Dr. Manuel.

The researchers add that investing in strategies to encourage the decrease of unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, ideally preventing the behaviours from starting in the first place, will go far to improve the health of Ontario’s population, while improving the sustainability of our health care system.

"Health Care Cost of Smoking in Ontario, 2003 to 2041” is being published July, 12, 2018.


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