You are using an outdated browser. We suggest you update your browser for a better experience. Click here for update.
Close this notification.
Skip to main content Skip to search
Ontario Cancer Facts

Tobacco Exposure among Ontario Métis Remains High, Despite Decline over-time

Jul 2015

  • While smoking prevalence declined significantly from 2007 to 2012 among Métis adults, rates are still much higher than those for the non-Aboriginal population (32% versus 21% in 2012).
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke (active and second-hand) is strongly linked to several cancers and other chronic diseases.
  • Tobacco smoke poses a major health threat to Ontario’s Métis people.

A recent report by Cancer Care Ontario and the Métis Nation of Ontario revealed that while the proportion of Métis adults currently smoking declined significantly from 2007 to 2012 (44% vs. 32%), smoking rates were still considerably higher among the Métis population (men and women) compared to the non-Aboriginal population. Overall, 32% of Métis adults reported smoking in 2012 compared to 21% of non-Aboriginal Ontarians.


Métis adults also experience greater exposure to second-hand smoke, particularly non-smoking Métis women, 1 in 3 (33%) of whom report being exposed to second-hand smoke in the home, car or public places (compared to 26% of Métis men, 20% of non-Aboriginal men and 16% of non-Aboriginal women).


It is of concern that similar patterns are found among Métis teens (aged 12 to 19), who are significantly more likely to smoke than non-Aboriginal teens. Furthermore, nearly 60% of Métis teens are exposed to second-hand smoke compared to about 33% of non-Aboriginal teens.

Source: Canadian Community Health Survey, 2007–2012 (Statistics Canada).
Notes: * indicates high sampling variability. Interpret with caution. 
Estimates are age-standardized to the 2006 Ontario Aboriginal identity population.

Current smoking prevalence among Ontario adults (aged 20+), Métis and Non-Aboriginal, 2007–2012
Year Métis (%) Non-Aboriginal (%)
2007 43.86 23.50
2008 42.67 22.41
2009 37.37 20.66
2010 30.50 21.55
2011 38.51 21.86
2012 31.71 21.39

An estimated 9,800 cases of cancer (or 15% of new cancers) in Ontario in 2009 were attributed to cigarette smoking.  Smokers are 9 times more likely than non-smokers to be diagnosed with lung cancer. Smoking has also been associated with a number of other cancers (e.g., cancers of the mouth and throat, stomach, and colon and rectum) and chronic conditions, such as chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease and possibly diabetes.


Limited data available on cancer demonstrate that tobacco exposure among Ontario Métis is already having a negative impact. An older study looking at cancer mortality across Canada between 1991 and 2001 found that Métis women had significantly higher rates of death due to cancers of the lung compared to non-Aboriginal women.  Another study examining the Manitoba Métis population revealed that from 1998 to 2007, Métis adults had a higher incidence of lung cancer.


Fortunately, the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases in smokers decreases after they quit. Within 10 years of quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is halved, and within 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease drops to that of a non-smoker.


To reduce the future burden of tobacco-related diseases among Métis people, immediate action is required. Culture-based interventions to prevent the uptake of smoking, system supports for smoking cessation programming for Métis communities, and targeted policies and programs to foster smoke-free environments should be considered.