More than one-third of construction workers smoked in 2011 (34 per cent), followed by mining and oil and gas extraction (29 per cent) and transportation and warehousing (29 per cent), according to a Conference Board of Canada report.
By occupation, 28 per cent of trades, transport and equipment operators smoked in 2011. Processing, manufacturing and utilities occupations had an employee smoking rate of 24 per cent, while 23 per cent of management smoked.
Smoking rates are highest among lower-income Canadians, found Profile of Tobacco Smokers in Canada. One-third of those making less than $20,000 smoked in 2010, compared to 16 per cent of those making $80,000 or more.
Three quarters of current smokers are employed, said the Conference Board, so the workplace is potentially an effective place to increase understanding about the health risks of tobacco and implement smoking-cessation programs.
While anti-smoking campaigns have reduced the rate of smokers in Canada from one-half of the population in 1965 to less than 20 per cent in 2011, five million Canadians still smoke tobacco and the rate of decline has slowed in recent years, said the Conference Board.
"It appears that, as the saying goes, the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” said Louis Thériault, director of health economics at the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care, which conducted the research. “Further reductions in smoking will need to target the segments of our population where the smoking rate is still high — lower-income Canadians, in some blue-collar occupations and in industries such as construction.”
Quebec had the highest percentage of its population as smokers (19.8 per cent) followed by Saskatchewan (19.2 per cent) in 2011, found the report. All four Atlantic provinces had smoking rates ranging from 18.1 per cent to 19.1 per cent. Manitoba's smoking rate was 18.7 per cent, while the rate dropped to 17.7 per cent in Alberta. Ontario (16.3 per cent) and British Columbia (14.2 per cent) had the lowest smoking rates in the country.
Profile of Tobacco Smokers in Canada is the first of a three-part briefing series “Smoking Cessation and the Workplace,” with funding provided by the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC) and Pfizer Canada.
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