Is Smoking Making You Broke?


We all know smoking hard is on your wallet, lungs, and the provincial healthcare system.

But what’s the actual price tag?

Tobacco use is a significant burden on all Canadians, costing $16.2 billion in 2012, or $466 for every Canadian, an Oct. 16 report released by the Conference Board of Canada - and funded by Health Canada - finds.

“Cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of premature death in Canada, killing half of all long-term users,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

“Tobacco control is a public health priority that requires focused efforts to prevent youth from starting to smoke and to help current smokers quit.”

The figures include costs associated with direct health care, fire, policing, research, and prevention, as well as lost productivity due to disability and premature death.

Behind the dollar figures are more than 45,000 deaths in 2012, which represents 18 per cent of all deaths in Canada that year.

This means 125 Canadians died because of tobacco use every day in 2012.

The report also finds that three quarters of deaths as a result of tobacco use in 2012 occurred in people aged 65 or older.

Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death in Canada, say the feds, and despite declines in tobacco use over the past several decades, there are still millions of Canadians who use tobacco.

The information provided in The Costs of Tobacco Use in Canada 2012 report “provides further evidence that more action is needed to reduce tobacco use in Canada,” reads a news release.

Here’s a quick look at what’s been introduced on Parliament Hill:

“The Government of Canada introduced Bill S-5, the proposed Tobacco and Vaping Products Act and is modernizing the current Federal Tobacco Control Strategy. Bill S-5 balances the need to protect youth and non-users from the harms of vaping product use, including nicotine addiction, while allowing adults, particularly adult smokers, to legally access vaping products as a less harmful alternative to tobacco.

In addition to its commitments relating to vaping and plain packaging, the Government of Canada has taken action to ban the use of menthol flavouring in cigarettes, blunt wraps, and most cigars.

The Government of Canada’s commitment to charting a new course in tobacco control is a component of the Vision for a Healthy Canada, which focuses on healthy eating, healthy living and a healthy mind,” reads a news release.. Some initiatives supporting this Vision include revisions to Canada’s food guide, a ban on partially hydrogenated oils (the main source of industrially produced trans fats in Canadian food), and immunizations and vaccine awareness initiatives, among others.”


  • Despite a steady decline in the number of smokers in Canada, the number of deaths due to tobacco use increased 22 per cent, to 45,464 in 2012 from 37,209 in 2002.
  • 58.5 per cent of these were men and 41.5 per cent were women.
  • Three quarters of these deaths occurred in people aged 65 or older.
  • These premature deaths mean nearly 600,000 potential years of life lost.
  • Smoking rates were higher 30 to 50 years ago, so we can expect the numbers of deaths due to tobacco use to increase as our population ages.
  • Direct health costs also increased over this period, from $4.4 billion to $6.5 billion.
  • This included prescription drugs ($1.7 billion), physician care ($1.0 billion) and hospital care ($3.8 billion).
  • Federal, provincial and territorial governments spent $122 million on tobacco control and associated law enforcement activities.
  • Production losses were $9.5 billion, of which almost $2.5 billion were associated with premature deaths and $7.0 billion were associated with short- and long-term disability.

“The costs of tobacco use in Canada are significant, and will continue to rise if we do not take new measures and sustain our collective commitment to tackle this issue,” said Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

“Aggressive action is needed, which is why we are moving forward with Bill S-5 and modernizing the current Federal Tobacco Control Strategy.”

In the coming months Health Canada is planning to share the What We Heard report from the public consultation on the future of tobacco control in Canada.

In addition, the feds are continuing to work on updating tobacco packages with new personal stories from Canadians. Anyone who’s interested in sharing their stories can contact pregs [at] hc-sc [dot] gc [dot] ca or 613-716-3513.

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