Winnipeg's smoking rate the lowest it has been in 10 years, report says

Winnipeg's smoking rate is the lowest it has been in 10 years and it's below the national average, a report released ahead of National Smoking Week says.

City's smoking rate was also below the national average

Winnipeg's smoking rate is the lowest it has been in 10 years. (CBC)

Winnipeg's smoking rate is the lowest it has been in 10 years, and it's below the national average, a report released ahead of National Smoking Week says.

Peg, a community indicator system that tracks the city's well-being, looked at Winnipeg's data from the 2014 Canadian Community Health Survey in a report released Thursday. The health survey asked respondents age 12 and up to self-report as a daily smoker, an occasional smoker who previously was a daily smoker or always an occasional smoker. The study doesn't take into account the number of cigarettes smoked daily.

Peg found that in 2014, fewer Winnipeggers smoked than at any point in the past 10 years, and the city's smoking rate was below the national average for the fifth year in a row. In 2014, 16.1 per cent of Winnipeg respondents smoked compared to 18.1 per cent of Canadians.

"The drop surprised me," said Jennifer Temmer, project officer for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, which manages Peg in partnership with United Way of Winnipeg. 

"For Winnipeg, it dropped from 19.4 per cent in 2012, 19 per cent in 2013 to 16.1 per cent in 2014, which isn't a small drop," she said, adding that Manitoba's numbers were similar. 

"The more we can get those numbers down, the better it is to keeping health-care numbers down, the better it is for the health of our population," she said.

In the past 10 years, the number of smokers in Winnipeg has fluctuated, but there has been an overall decrease. 

Winnipeg's smoking rate is below the national average. (Peg)
The highest rate during the 10-year period was in 2008 at 23.3 per cent, with the lowest rate in 2014.

For Murray Gibson, the executive director at Manitoba Tobacco Reducation Alliance (MANTRA), the downward trend is the important part.

"It's encoruaging news," said Gibson.

"We hope the trend will continue," he said.

Gibson credits provincial laws for reducing the habit, with the ban on smoking in public spaces and workplaces, tighter laws on advertising and higher taxes on cigarettes all helpful. He also said organizations are making their grounds smoke-free and social norms are changing. 

"More people are aware of the fact that heavy smoking is detrimental to their health," he said. 

"There's also more people who are sitting down and seriously looking at their smoking — weighing the pros and cons and making good, solid decisions on it." 

Gibson said smoking is still a problem among the most vulnerable populations, including people with mental health issues and indigenous populations. 

"These are areas where we need to do more," he said. 

National Non-Smoking Week runs from Jan. 17 to 23.


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