The legal smoking age in Canada is the age at which a person is allowed to buy tobacco products, including cigarettes. Like the drinking age, the legal smoking age in Canada is set by each individual Canadian province and territory. Selling tobacco is tightly regulated in most areas. In Ontario, for instance, the seller (whose age is not regulated) must request identification from any person who appears to be younger than 25 and must determine that the prospective buyer is at least 19 years old prior to selling tobacco products to that person.
Canada's Legal Smoking Age by Province and Territory
Across Canada's provinces and territories, the age at which you can legally purchase tobacco is split more or less evenly between 18 and 19 years of age. Here's the breakdown by territory and province:
- Alberta - 18
- British Columbia - 19
- Manitoba - 18
- New Brunswick - 19
- Newfoundland and Labrador - 19
- Northwest Territories - 18
- Nova Scotia - 19
- Nunavut - 18
- Ontario - 19
- Prince Edward Island - 19
- Quebec - 18
- Saskatchewan - 18
- Yukon Territory - 18
Smoking Is Banned in Indoor Public Spaces
As of 2010, all territories and provinces and the federal government have enacted relatively consistent legislation banning public smoking in their jurisdictions. The legislation bans smoking in indoor public spaces and workplaces such as restaurants, bars, and casinos. The federal government's ban applies to federal workplaces and to federally regulated businesses such as airports.
The Movement to Raise Legal Smoking Age to 21
There's growing support for raising the minimum legal smoking age to 21 across the country to make access to tobacco more difficult and to tamp down tobacco-related illnesses and deaths. (About 37,000 people die in Canada every year from a smoking-related illness.)
The Canadian government suggested in early 2017 changing the legal smoking age to 21. The idea of raising the minimum age was put forward in a paper from Health Canada (a federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health) looking into ways to reach a 5% national smoking rate by 2035. In 2017, it stood at 13%.
The federal government is reportedly not ruling out the possibility of raising the minimum smoking age to 21. The intent would be to try and reduce the number of young people picking up the habit.
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said, "It's time to push the envelope. What are those next steps? We've put out some bold ideas, things like raising the age of access. Things like putting restrictions in terms of multiperson dwellings. We want to hear what Canadians think about those ideas.”
Cancer Society Supports Raising the Minimum Age
The Canadian Cancer Society says it supports the idea of setting a federal smoking age of 21. Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst there, says he believes raising the smoking age is an inevitability and cites a 2015 study by the U.S/ National Institute of Medicine which suggests that raising the legal smoking age to 21 could drop the smoking rate by roughly 12% and eventually reduce smoking-related deaths by 10%.
Study Shows Drop in Smokers
In the first quarter of 2017, the national group Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) released its health survey on 2000 to 2014 tobacco use in Canada. During this period, there was an overall 1.1 million drop in the number of Canadian smokers, while the number of smokers ages 15 to 19 also dropped but remained substantial.
The percentage of Canadians who smoked fell by one-quarter, from 26% of Canadians aged 12 or older to 19%. Over the 2000 to 2014 study period, the majority of people ages 20 to 29 who had ever smoked reported smoking their first cigarette between the age of 15 and 19, while the percentage of those who reported their first cigarette over the age of 20 increased slightly from 7% to 12%.