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Teachers are key channels of influence to prevent tobacco use uptake by youth and to promote cessation. Comprehensive promotion of healthy living includes incorporation of tobacco issues and tobacco-free living information into the curricula. The statistics and resources included here are intended to assist schools to do so and thus empower and encourage youth to play, live, be tobacco-free.

  • All youth and young adults may be considered at risk for smoking uptake and should be a target for prevention and cessation efforts[1].
  • Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable illness, disability and premature death in Canada. Across the country, smoking is responsible for more than 37,000 deaths annually, of which 13,000 are Ontarians, including approximately 700 Simcoe Muskoka residents. (HealthStatsSimcoeMuskoka)
  • Smoking kills six times more Canadians each year than vehicle collisions, suicides, murders and AIDS combined.
  • Tobacco use is responsible for about one-third of all cancers including lung, mouth and throat, larynx, bladder, kidney and pancreas.
  • In Canada, every 10 min­utes, two teenagers will start smoking cigarettes and one of them will lose their life because of it.
  • Local smoking rates are similiar to the provincial average with 21% of adults and 9% of high school aged youth identifying themselves as smokers. (CCHS 2011/12 & OSDUHS/NSM LHIN 2013)
  • According to the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS 2007-2012 combined),  about  half of current or former adult (20+ years) smokers in Simcoe Muskoka reported smoking their first whole cigarette when they were 16 years of age or younger and less than one-quarter waited until they were at least 19 years of age.
  • According to the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (2013), 7.3 % of Ontario students in Grades 9-12 reported using smokeless tobacco. According to the same survey, in Simcoe Muskoka 6.6% of students reported using smokeless tobacco. Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (2013)
  • According to the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitor 2012 (CTUMS) 8% of Canadians 15 years and older reported having ever tried smokeless tobacco products. 5% of youth 15 to 19 and 12% of young adults 20 to 24 reported having ever tried smokeless tobacco.
  • Tobacco use can also kill others through involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Among households with children less than 10 years of age, the percentage of smoke-free homes was 97% in 2013. (RRFSS 2013)

Curriculum Supports

  • Know What’s In Your Mouth uses a comprehensive school health approach to prevent and reduce the use of chew tobacco among youth. In this toolkit you will find many links to the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum, as well as lesson ideas and sample activities to make it easy to include chewing tobacco education and messaging in the classroom. Youth engagement training is available to help plan and implement chew tobacco awareness.

  • Chew Tobacco Interactive Question and Answer Resource – Use this in the classroom to support the Secondary Health and Education (HPE2) and Secondary Science (SC2) curriculum expectations and/or for student use during chew tobacco awareness displays or activities. Available for download as an interactive presentation (PDF) or in quiz format (PDF).

SMDHU Programs

The health unit also offers a variety of programs and services secondary schools (PDF), covering a wide range of health-related topics.

Additional Resources

Visit the tobacco section of the health unit’s website for more information related to tobacco laws, the effects of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco (e.g. chew tobacco), strategies for fighting back against tobacco industry so youth don’t get hooked, and supports for quitting smoking/using tobacco.

Are you concerned about a student and/or would like additional information related to counselling or community supports? Find out where to get help.


[1] Smoke-Free Ontario – Scientific Advisory Committee. Evidence to Guide Action: Comprehensive Tobacco Control in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, 2010, p.75.

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