Teenagers in Oxford County are taking up smoking at more than double the pace of their peers across Ontario, according to a new report from the University of Waterloo.

The report, part of a study conducted by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact,, says 39.6 per cent of Oxford County teenagers have tried a cigarette at some point – compared to a provincial average of 18 per cent.

“We know there are pockets of higher levels of tobacco use, and unfortunately Oxford County appears to be one of them,” says Steve Manske, a scientist involved in the study.

“That’s a big concern. We need to be doing something about it.”

One of those tasked with doing something about it is Lynn Beath, Oxford County’s public health director.

She says the county health unit will dig through the report and act based on their findings.

“We need to understand what today’s issues are. The youth of today, why are they smoking?” she says.

Beath says she wasn’t surprised to see the numbers in report, noting the history of tobacco growing in the Tillsonburg area.

“We’ve always known that, in Oxford, there has appeared to be a higher smoking rate among our adults and our youth,” she says.

What Manske and Beath agree on is that something should be done to lower the teen smoking rate in Oxford County – and everywhere else – to give the teens a better chance at health later in life.

“We all need to be doing our bit to help kids not to start,” says Manske.

Manske says most kids take up smoking around age 14, often because their peers are doing the same.