Smoking: Why it Should Remain on our Radar

Have you noticed the interest and publicity around substance use this past year? Issues like the legalization of cannabis, youth vaping and the need to keep users of opioids and injection drugs safe are important. There is no question.

With this new publicity… it is easy to forget about reducing commercial tobacco – but it should remain on our radar for many reasons…

Why do we still care about smoking?

While the smoking rate in Manitoba is down from 25.9% to 14.5%1, it is still 3.9 times higher for some segments of the population (see infographic for more statistics and information). Evidence confirms that smoking rates are connected to where we live and our experiences of trauma, discrimination and racism. The lower a group’s income, education, or employment status, the higher the rate of smoking. Improving access to education, income and employment can help address higher smoking rates.

We continue to care about smoking rates because issues that affect some people in our society affect us all.

We also care because tobacco is the only commercial product on the market that eventually kills nearly half of all long-term users. In 2014, there were 2,659 deaths in Manitoba due to substance use and 1,845 of those were the result of tobacco use.2 We should keep focus on preventing harms from tobacco use. While we are concerned about the potential harmful effects of vaping, cannabis and other substance use, we also care about the harm caused by tobacco use. 

Natural tobacco and traditional tobacco use has been an integral part of Indigenous culture in many parts of Canada for thousands of years. It is used in ritual, ceremony and prayer. It is also considered a sacred plant with healing and spiritual benefits. We should be careful not to confuse traditional tobacco and its sacred uses with commercial tobacco and the addiction epidemic we see today. The non-traditional use of tobacco causes all of the harmful health effects of smoking.3

We want to help

Southern Health-Santé Sud wants you to know that there is support available for people who use commercial tobacco and who want to quit.  Options include:


  1. Reid JL, Hammond D, Tariq U, Burkhalter R, Rynard VL, Douglas O. Tobacco Use in Canada: Patterns and Trends, 2019 Edition. Waterloo, ON: Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo.
  2. Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms Scientific Working Group. (2018). Canadian substance use costs and harms (2007–2014). (Prepared by the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.) Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. 
  3. First Nations Health Authority