Smoking rates dropping in Yukon

Yukon's chief medical officer of health said there's 'good news' about the territory's smoking rates - they're in decline. 'Probably the first time I can say [that] with some confidence,' Dr. Brendan Hanley said.

Fewer Yukoners lighting up, but territory's smoking rate still higher than Canada's

Yukoners are still more likely to smoke than the average Canadian, but the gap in smoking rates appears to be shrinking. (Reuters)

It seems more Yukoners are observing National Non Smoking week this year — traditionally the third week of January — according to the territory's chief medical officer of health. Dr. Brendan Hanley said Yukon's smoking rates are heading downward.

"There has been some progress. This is probably the first time I can say with some confidence that smoking rates are declining, so that's good news," Hanley said. 

Hanley said the most recent statistics put Yukon's smoking rate at about 21 per cent. In 2014, Statistics Canada found more than 26 per cent of Yukoners smoked — the third-highest rate in Canada, after Nunavut and the N.W.T.

The latest figures show that Yukoners are still more likely to smoke than most other Canadians — just 18 per cent of Canadians were smokers in 2014, according to StatsCan — but the territory is getting closer to national smoking rates.

Eventually, that gap in smoking rates may disappear. According to Hanley, Yukoners are butting out at a greater rate than other Canadians. Smoking rates in Yukon have dropped by about 6 percent over the last few years, Hanley said, compared to about 3 per cent for Canada as a whole.

"What I think is that more Yukoners are quitting, and I think less are starting. So I think we're winning at both ends."

Despite the encouraging stats, Hanley said there's still more work needed to tackle smoking rates, especially among young people. He said youth smoking rates are still relatively high in Yukon, with 15 per cent of teens smoking at least occasionally.

Hanley credits any progress to curb smoking rates to the "de-normalizing" of smoking — with legislation to ban smoking in public places, ad campaigns to discourage people from the habit, and public health programs to help people quit.

"Smoking just isn't really cool anymore. It's not as socially acceptable."

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