Tobacco Use in Indigenous Communities (First Nations, Inuit/Inuk & Métis)

Research consistently shows that smoking rates among Indigenous communities in Canada are 2-3 times higher than the general population with some research showing the rates to be as high as 50-60%.1-3

Why are rates so much higher in Indigenous communities?

  • Tobacco is often used as a coping mechanism to deal with high levels of stress from: historical trauma, living in poverty, and lack of access to employment opportunities, safe drinking water, health care, and nutritious, affordable food.
  • Cultural ties to tobacco. Traditional (aka Sacred, ceremonial) tobacco use is intended to respect Indigenous peoples’ customs. It wasn’t until after European contact that the use of tobacco for recreational purposes occurred. The non-traditional use of tobacco according to The Elders is disrespectful of Indigenous culture.
  • Indigenous young adults may not see themselves represented in mainstream anti-tobacco promotions.

Leave The Pack Behind is working with several key organizations in Ontario who support the Indigenous populations including Cancer Care Ontario’s Aboriginal Tobacco Program, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centers, and Aboriginal Student Centers on post-secondary campuses. These partnerships are to ensure that Leave The Pack Behind programs and campaign materials are appealing and effective for Indigenous young adults.




  1. First Nations Information Governance Centre. (2016). First Nations regional longitudinal health survey (2008/10) – 12-Month Smoking Prevalence by Socio-demographics. Available from:
  2. Kelly-Scott, K. & Smith, K. (2015). Aboriginal peoples: Fact sheet for Canada. Statistics Canada. Catalogue no. 89-656-X2015001. ISBN 978-0-660-02908-5.
  3. Orisatoki, R. (2013). The public health implications of the use and misuse of tobacco among the Aboriginals in Canada. Global Journal of Health Science, 5 (1), 28-34.