Enormous strides have been made over the past decade in standardizing health indicators and in making data available for analysis in ways previously unimaginable. Our thanks to those who have invested in this important work.
For reasons never made clear, Canadian health authorities have rarely age-standardized smoking rates. Most people start smoking when they are young and a proportion of them quit as they age - so it doesn't make sense to compare the smoking rates of a relatively young population (say Africa or Canada in the 1960s) with those of a relatively old population (say Japan or Canada in 2017!).
Because WHO age standardizes smoking rates in its Global Health Observatory repository, we can compare Canada's progress with other countries with a little more confidence.
The charts below suggest that:
- wealthy countries with modest anti-smoking programs (France and Germany) have made little progress in reducing current smoking (daily and occasional) among men or women
- wealthy countries with more active anti-smoking strategies and liberalized markets for harm-reduction/tobacco alternatives (United Kingdom, United States, Sweden), have made more progress against smoking
- wealthy countries with more active smoking strategies and restricted markets for harm-reduction/tobacco alternatives (Canada until 2016, Australia) have made similar progress.
- developing countries with more active smoking strategies and restricted markets for tobacco alternatives (Thailand, Brazil) have similarly made progress.
Data is more plentiful, more accurate and more usable -- but it still isn't enough to make a prima facie case that liberalized nicotine markets drive down current smoking. More analysis needed!