Last week Statistics Canada made available the Public Use Microdata from the Canadian Community Health Survey conducted in 2017 and 2018. The gift of a 1000 variables!
The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) is the doyen of Statistics Canada’s health surveillance system. For 2 decades, government pollsters have used this survey to find explore the health and lifestyles of Canadians (aged 12 and up). To the benefit of all, data from this survey is made freely available to external researchers every two years in the form of a Public Use Micro File.
The methodological changes made to the survey in 2015 have not diminished its role as the most robust national measure of smoking rates in Canada, and the most reliable tool to look at progress. In this first of a series of posts using the new data, we look at progress between 2007-08 and 2017-2018.
Smoking is down — but not because of quitting.
More than 4 million Millenials and Gen Z are now on board, but 2 million from the heavy-smoking Silent Generation have been lost.
To take a closer look at population changes, we compared the smoking behaviour of separate population cohorts, those born in the decades ending with the survey year. For the survey’s purposes, these can be seen as mostly aligned with the classic generations: the Silent Generation (born before 1937 and between 1938 and 1947), older Boomers (1948 – 1957), younger boomers (1958 – 1967), Generation X (1968 to 1977), Xennials (1978 to 1987), Millenials (1988 to 1997) and Gen Z (after 1998).
The number of Canadian smokers dropped by a million.
It would have been almost double that had young people not been recruited to replace them.
There were about 6 million smokers in 2007-08 and only 5 million in 2017-2018. Each generational cohort had a steady drop off in the number of smokers — totalling 1.8 million fewer smokers among Canadians over 30 years of age in 2017-2018.
Canada gained very few former smokers
In 2007-2008, 7.1 million Canadians said they had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their life, but didn’t smoke any more. A decade later, that number had climbed to only 7.6 million. These were not the same Canadians, as more than 800,000 former smokers in the Silent Generation were no longer around to answer surveys at the end of the decade.
Many more “never smokers” made a difference.
Smoking rates are falling, but quitting does not get the credit.
- Canada’s smoking rates dropped by almost 6 percentage points over a decade (from 22% to 16%), representing 1 million fewer smokers.
- A main driver of change was the natural ageing of the population and the entry of younger cohorts who are less likely to have ever smoked.
- The prevalence of lifetime abstention from smoking increased by 6 percentage points over a decade (from 41% to 46%).
- The prevalence of never moving from experimental smoking to regular smoking increased by 2 percentage points (from 11% to 13%)
- A much less significant driver of change was smoking cessation. The prevalence of former smoking fell by 2 percentage points (from 26% to 24%).