Percentage of First Nations mothers living on reserve who reported smoking during pregnancy, Canada, 2002/2003 and 2008/2010

Source: CICH graphic created using data adapted from the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS) 2008/10, National report on adults, youth and children living in First Nations Communities. -accessed August 2, 2017.

In 2002/2003, 37% of First Nations mothers reported that they had ever smoked during their pregnancy. In 2008/2010, that proportion had increased to 47%.

While 47% of the mothers had ever smoked during pregnancy, 33% smoked throughout their pregnancy, 9% quit in the first trimester, 4% quit in the second trimester and 1% quit in the third trimester.1

According to the 2007/2008 Nunavut Inuit Children’s Health Survey, 83% of Inuit mothers reported that they smoked during pregnancy.2

The rate of smoking among pregnant First Nations and Inuit women is much higher than that of non-Indigenous women.

Twelve percent of non-Indigenous women reported smoking during pregnancy in 2005-2008, down from 22% in 1993-1996.3

1First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS) 2008/10, National report on adults, youth and children living in First Nations Communities. August 2, 2017.
2The International Polar Year Nunavut Inuit Children’s Health Survey, 2007/2008. August 22, 2017.
3Statistics Canada, National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth.2008-2009 (custom runs).


Smoking during and after pregnancy contributes to adverse outcomes for babies as well as mothers. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weights, some birth defects and infant death.4 The toxins in cigarette smoke pass through the bloodstream, depriving fetuses of oxygen and nutrients, which can have devastating effects on a baby’s growth and development, including delayed lung development, heart defects, and impacts to brain function.5 Smoking during and after pregnancy also increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.4 While Canadian data indicate that the rates of smoking during pregnancy have been declining in the general population, the higher rates of smoking among pregnant Indigenous women, and the increasing rates of smoking noted among pregnant Inuit and First Nations women in particular, indicates that additional smoking cessation interventions are necessary among Indigenous populations. In addition, since the high prevalence of smoking is influenced by social determinants of health, including education, income, social support networks and culture, the socio-economic and cultural challenges to smoking cessation need to be addressed with culturally appropriate interventions.

4Campbell, E. (2010). Addressing smoking cessation among pregnant Aboriginal women: Challenges and gaps in knowledge. Unpublished Masters of Public Health project, Simon Fraser University.
5Babycenter. (2017). How smoking during pregnancy affects you and your baby. -accessed October 7, 2017.