Cigarettes to cost Quebecers more as province raises tax on tobacco products

Cigarettes to cost Quebecers more as province raises tax on tobacco products

Smokers will pay more for their cigarettes in Quebec starting Thursday. For the first time since 2014, Quebec is announcing an increase in the tax on tobacco products.

According to a Ministry of Finance bulletin issued Wednesday, the increase amounts to $8 for a carton of 200 cigarettes. In more detail, the specific tax on cigarettes increases from 14.9 cents to 18.9 cents.

This same price also applies to the sale of a gram of loose tobacco or leaf. Only the 80 per cent tax on the value of cigars remains unchanged.

The government says it is doing this “to support the Strategy for a Tobacco-Free Quebec 2020-2025” with the aim to reduce the smoking rate to less than 10 per cent by 2025. According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, 12 per cent of people aged 15 and over in the province were smoking cigarettes in 2020.

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) hailed the move as “a step in the right direction.” The organization is actively fighting smoking as it is responsible for half of all preventable cancers and 30 per cent of cancer deaths.

However, David Raynaud, the manager of the CCS Public Interest Advocacy Team, points out that Quebec still has the lowest tax rate on tobacco in Canada. The $8 increase covers only slightly more than the inflation that has accumulated over nine years.

With this increase, Quebec should collect about $37 per carton of cigarettes while Ontario is asking for $45. The Canadian average is $62.

“There will be gains for sure. Any increase in tobacco taxes will deter people from buying tobacco products,” said Raynaud. “But if we want to have a stronger impact, we have to give ourselves more means than that and increase the tax more significantly.”

The Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control was more enthusiastic, saying it applauds a decision that “will save countless lives.” Coalition spokesperson Flory Doucas said in a press release that “there is no more effective measure than taxation to reduce smoking.”

She expects the price hike to create a shock among consumers and encourage smoking cessation, as well as discourage younger people from taking up smoking.

In a press release accompanying its announcement, the government said that 13,000 Quebecers die each year from the consequences of smoking. It also mentions that “the health costs related to smoking are estimated at $3.8 billion per year.”

According to a quote attributed to Minister of Finance Eric Girard, the increase in the specific tax should contribute to the fight against smoking “while minimizing the impact on smuggling activities”.

Health Minister Christian Dubé recognized that smoking “remains an important public health problem” and that taxation is one of the most effective prevention measures.

The World Health Organization claims that a 10 per cent increase in the price of tobacco products can lead to a 4 per cent reduction in smoking in high-income countries.

In a Canadian Cancer Society submission to Minister Girard’s pre-budget consultations last month, the organization recommends a specific tobacco tax increase sufficient to match Ontario’s level.

The organization also calls on the government to “introduce a specific tax on vaping products as soon as possible” in addition to imposing a sales permit for tobacco and vaping products at a cost of $365 per year.

It is also recommended that a $30 million “cost recovery fee” be charged to tobacco companies to offset the costs of the tobacco control strategy.

Source: CTV News