Tobacco use

hands breaking a cigarette
The number of current smokers at your school is compared to provincial and national results from the 2010-2011 Youth Smoking Survey.

COMPASS defines current smokers as students who report smoking in the past 30 days. An occasional smoker is a student who has smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and has smoked or puffed cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Students are considered to be susceptible to begin smoking if they have never smoked a cigarette and they answer “yes” to any of the following questions:

  • “Do you think in the future you might try smoking cigarettes?”
  • “At any time during the next year do you think you will smoke a cigarette?”
  • “If one of your best friends was to offer you a cigarette, would you smoke it?”

Why is smoking a health issue?

The serious health risks associated with smoking have been well established. Approximately 17% of all deaths in Canada (or roughly 37,200 deaths per year) are attributable to tobacco use.1 Tobacco kills three times more Canadians each year than alcohol, AIDS, illegal drugs, car accidents, suicide, and murder combined.2

Youth who use tobacco are more likely to:

  • show poorer academic achievement3,8
  • miss more days of school due to health reasons10
  • skip more classes10
  • report that getting good grades is not important10
  • drop out of high school4
  • engage in less physical activity5
  • consume alcohol6,8,9
  • binge drink6,8,9
  • use marijuana6,8,9
  • use other illicit drugs6
  • have poorer functioning later in adulthood, including poorer physical health, lower life satisfaction, depression, lower income, and less years of education.7

Research consistently shows that tobacco use poses a serious health risk for students. Your school’s School Health Profile contains evidence-based recommendations for how to address student tobacco use, as well as contact information for local public health professionals.

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1Rehm, J., Baliunas, D., Brochu, S., Fischer, B., Gnam, W., Patra, J., Popova, S., Sarnocinska-Hart, A., & Taylor, B. (2006). The costs of substance abuse in Canada 2002. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 1-14.

2Holowaty, E., Cheong, S. C., Di Cori, S., Garcia, J., Luk, R., Lyons, C., & Therialt, M. E. (2002). Tobacco or health in Ontario: Tobacco attributed cancers and deaths over the past 50 years…and the next 50. Toronto, ON: Cancer Care Ontario.

3Tucker, J. S., Martinez, J. F., Ellickson, P. L., & Edelen, M. O. (2008). Temporal associations of cigarette smoking with social influences, academic performance, and delinquency: A four-wave longitudinal study from ages 13-23. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 22(1), 1-11.

4Ellickson, P. L., Tucker, J. S., & Klein, D. J. (2008). Reducing early smokers’ risk for future smoking and other problem behavior: Insights from a five-year longitudinal study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 43(4), 394-400.

5Audrain-McGovern, J., Rodriguez, D., Rodgers, K., Cuevas, J., & Sass, J. (2012). Longitudinal variation in adolescent physical activity patterns and emergence of tobacco use. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 37(6), 622-633.

6Davis, C. G. (2006). Risks associated with tobacco use in youths aged 15-19: Analysis drawn from the 2004 Canadian Addiction Survey. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

7Georgiades, K., & Boyle, M. H. (2007). Adolescent tobacco and cannabis use: Young adult outcomes from the Ontario Child Health Study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(7), 724-731.

8Leatherdale, S. T., Hammond, D., & Ahmed, R. (2008). Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use patterns among youth in Canada. Cancer Causes & Control, 19, 361-369.

9Leatherdale, S. T., & Ahmed, R. (2010). Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use among Canadian youth: Do we need more multi-substance prevention programming? Journal of Primary Prevention, 31, 99-108.

10Pathammavong, R., Leatherdale, S. T., Ahmed, R., Griffith, J., Nowatzki, J., & Manske, S. (2011). Examining the link between education related outcomes and student health risk behaviours among Canadian youth: Data from the 2006 National Youth Smoking Survey. The Canadian Journal of Education, 34(1), 215-247.

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