Teen cigarette and pot smoking rates fall

Smoking, drinking and drug use is down among Canadian youth, Health Canada says.

Use of water pipes a concern for cancer society

Smoking, drinking and drug use are down among Canadian youth, Health Canada says.

In a 2010-2011 survey, nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of youth in grades 6 to 12 said they have never tried smoking a cigarette in 2010-2011, which Health Canada said was a significant increase from the 67 per cent in 2008-2009 who said they had never lit up.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the trend was encouraging.

Gene Beaver, 19, right, smokes a hookah with Aminah Rawdah, 18, in Toronto. The Canadian Cancer Society is calling for a ban on such flavoured tobacco products. (The Canadian Press)

The rate of current smokers in grades 6 to 9 dropped to two per cent in 2010-2011, from three per cent in the previous survey.

Even though smoking rates are falling, the Canadian Cancer Society called for more action, such as banning the use of flavoured tobacco products, little cigars and hookahs, also called shisha and water pipes.

"A ban on flavours in all tobacco products will protect youth, will prevent water pipe smoking from worsening and will deal with the ongoing issue of flavoured cigarillos," Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the society, said in a release.

Water pipe tobacco comes in flavours such as apple, peach and pistachio.

In the federal survey, 41 per cent of youth who said they'd smoked a water pipe in the previous month also said they hadn't smoked cigarettes during the same time period.

Among the students surveyed, alcohol use in grades 7 to 12 in the past 12 months fell to 45 per cent from 53 per cent.

Binge drinking — having five or more drinks on one occasion — decreased to 33 per cent from 39 per cent in 2008-2009.

Reported drug use also fell. Five per cent of the survey participants in grades 7 to 12 admitted to using MDMA (ecstasy) over the previous 12 months, down from six per cent in the last survey.

Less than a quarter, 21 per cent, of students said they had used cannabis.

The survey of 50,949 students was conducted for Health Canada by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo. The survey polled students from across the country except New Brunswick, which declined to participate in the 2010-11 report.

The survey is done every two years and was released to coincide with the World Health Organization's World No Tobacco Day.