Raise cost of cigarettes by 24% to discourage youth from smoking, CMA says

OTTAWA, May 15, 2014 /CNW/ - Ottawa should continue to raise the price of cigarettes to hammer down smoking among youth, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) said today.

Speaking on behalf of the CMA, Dr. Chris Milburn told Senators that youthful smokers are particularly sensitive to price increases so the benefit of increasing excise taxes now on cigarettes will outweigh the risk of increased incentive to tobacco smugglers. A 10% price increase is estimated to reduce smoking by 5%.

Dr. Milburn, an emergency room physician from Sydney, N.S., was speaking before the Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee, which is reviewing the government's budget implementation bill. Bill C-31 would hike up the excise duty on a carton of 200 cigarettes by $4 to $21.03 from the current $17 — a 24% increase.

The national smoking rate among men and women may have fallen to its current 16% from 50% when the federal government began to discourage smoking as a matter of policy 51 years ago, Dr. Milburn noted. But the smoking rate is still 20% for young adults.

"Instead of celebrating we need to face the fact that our work is far from done," Dr. Milburn said. "Education has done a lot to decrease smoking rates, but for many smokers the price paid at the checkout is a real and immediate deterrent to someone who is making that important decision as to whether they are going to start - or continue - to smoke."

Tobacco is still the No. 1 cause of preventable disease and death in Canada. Not only does it claim the lives of 37, 000 or more Canadians each year, but it also costs the health care system $17 billion a year.

"Every day Canada's doctors treat the devastation of tobacco," Dr. Milburn added.

"This tax increase is actually just readjusting to make up for inflation. The amount of tax paid has fallen in real dollars over the years, and needs to be adjusted to account for that. This provision of Bill C-31 will provide ammunition in the war against tobacco for years to come. And let's all hope we don't need another 50 years to eradicate smoking."

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 80,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 60 national medical organizations. CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.

 

SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association

For further information: Dominique Jolicoeur, Communications Officer, Tel: 613-731-8610 or 800-663-7336, ext. 2038, Cell.: 613 809-5669, dominique.jolicoeur@cma.ca

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