Saskatchewan teens are lighting up at nearly three times the average rate of their peers across the country.
New data from Health Canada shows 22 per cent of Saskatchewan teenagers aged 15 to 19 smoke cigarettes compared to the national average of eight per cent.
The information contained in the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey has led the Canadian Cancer Society to renew calls for Saskatchewan to do more to prevent teen smoking.
“When we see the large numbers of youth smoking we need to create environments where that isn’t encouraged,” Cheryl Whiting, director of cancer prevention at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency told 650 CKOM. “We need to help them (teenagers) to make healthy choices.”
The survey also shows 75 per cent of Saskatchewan people were in favour of ramping up prevention efforts, such as mandating smoke-free patios.
Several municipalities including Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert have already introduced bylaws to regulate where people can smoke.
Whiting said regulations help discourage people from picking up the habit.
“We want our youth to understand that tobacco use is not commonplace and smoking isn’t something that’s popular,” she said.
The survey was conducted between October 2016 and June 2017. During that time period, Saskatchewan was the only province that did not have any of a list of recommended tobacco control measures in place.
“I don’t think this is something one organization or one group can do alone,” Whiting said. “I think there’s a role for all of us.”
She said she believes the conversation can start at home with parents talking to their kids.
“What do they understand about (smoking)? Do they understand that it is harmful?” Whiting said.
The Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey was given to 52,103 students in grades 7 to 12 (secondary I through V in Quebec) between October 2016 and June 2017.
*This story has been corrected. A previous draft stated Cheryl Whiting was with the Canadian Cancer Society.
—With files from 650 CKOM’s Erin McNutt