Smoking rates among Alberta youth shot up dramatically, even as rates in the rest of the country hit record lows, according to Health Canada.

The number of regular smokers aged 15-19  in Alberta jumped from 12 per cent in 2009 to 17 per cent in 2010 — a 40% relative increase in youth smoking, according to annual results from the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey.

"These results are shocking," said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health . "We need to redouble our efforts to reduce youth smoking before this annual increase becomes a long-term trend."

The results also reveal that overall smoking rates among Albertans aged 15 and over are up from 18% in 2009 to 19% in 2010.

"This is the first increase in overall smoking rates in Alberta in five years — following consecutive declines in 2007, 2008 and 2009," Hagen said.

Smoking rates among Canadians aged 15 and up dropped from 18 per cent in 2009 to 17 per cent in 2010 — the lowest level ever recorded by the survey.

Smoking among teens aged 15 to 17 fell to a mere nine per cent — the lowest recorded rate in an age group often seen as key in the fight against smoking.