OTTAWA, Feb. 11, 2014 /CNW/ - The Non-Smokers' Rights Association applauds the federal government for including in today's budget a $4 a carton increase in federal tobacco taxes, roughly equivalent to an inflation adjustment since the last increase in 2002. It also commends the commitment to making an automatic inflation adjustment every 5 years. Research published as recently as last month from prominent epidemiologists Prabhat Jha and Sir Richard Peto confirm the positive impact of raising tobacco taxes on public health:
"Large increases in specific excise taxes on tobacco are particularly important, because they can have a substantial and rapid effect on consumption."
Higher tobacco taxes have an even greater impact on tobacco consumption among low income groups and teenagers:
"Higher taxes are particularly effective in poorer or less educated groups and help prevent young people who are experimenting with smoking from becoming regular smokers."
No doubt the tobacco industry and its allies, such as the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, will condemn today's initiative by the federal government by brandishing once again the threat of contraband tobacco, which they claim is harming legitimate businesses in Canada. It is important to point out that both the federal and provincial governments have been implementing effective measures over the past decade to address this serious public health threat. One such initiative, Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco), is currently going through the federal legislative process. This bill will add new provisions related to contraband activities to the Criminal Code.
These measures have significantly reduced tobacco contraband levels in Canada. Even the tobacco industry itself recognizes in its internal documents that these measures have been effective. For example, British American Tobacco, the parent company of Imperial Tobacco Canada, has admitted as early as 2010 that:
"Profit in Canada grew, benefiting from higher volumes and a strong currency. Volume growth was achieved on the back of a significant reduction in illicit product as a result of the authorities' enforcement activities."
Although the contraband problem has not been completely eradicated, governments should not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of cigarettes sold on the Canadian tobacco market are legal, and should therefore continue to implement effective tobacco control measures to protect Canadians from the devastating health consequences of tobacco use. Increasing tobacco taxes serves a dual purpose of both lowering tobacco consumption and raising much needed government revenues. The inflation adjustments announced today will result in incremental tobacco tax revenues in excess of 600M per year, not including GST.
SOURCE: Non-Smokers' Rights Association
For further information:
Lorraine Fry, Executive Director, Tel: (416) 928-2900, Cell.: (416) 726-6861
Melodie Tilson, Director of Policy, Tel: (613) 230-4211 ext. 3, Cell.: (613) 882-6125
François Damphousse, Directeur, bureau du Québec, Tel: (514) 843-3250, Cell.: (514) 237-7626