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Monday, 28 November 2011 00:00

Alberta due for another $2.00 per pack cigarette tax increase

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is calling for a $2.00 per pack cigarette tax increase to reduce tobacco affordability and to curb youth smoking in the province.  The coalition recently made formal recommendations to the Alberta government during the provincial budget consultations.

“Youth smoking rates remain disturbingly high and Alberta is not meeting its youth tobacco reduction targets” said Leigh Allard, President and CEO of the Lung Association of Alberta & NWT.  “Cigarettes are currently more affordable for Alberta youth than they are for young people in any other province.  We must reduce the affordability of tobacco products in order to achieve our youth smoking targets”. 

Alberta experience demonstrates the impact of taxes on tobacco use.  A cigarette tax increase of $2.25 per 25 pack in 2002 resulted in a dramatic 24% decline in tobacco sales the following year.  Youth smoking rates among Albertans aged 15-19 dropped from 24% to 19% in the year following the tax increase.

“Tobacco taxes are the single most effective means of reducing tobacco use especially among youth” said Les Hagen, Executive Director of Action on Smoking & Health.  “Without higher taxes it will be very difficult to meet our youth smoking targets and to prevent young people from becoming addicted.  Our low tobacco taxes are not providing a sufficient deterrent to young people and that’s a big reason why we are not meeting our youth smoking targets”.

According to a recent report from Alberta Health Services, it only takes 41 minutes of labour for Alberta youth aged 15-24 to purchase 25 cigarettes compared with over 60 minutes of labour for the same age group in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.   Youth in British Columbia must work for 52 minutes to purchase 25 cigarettes and Saskatchewan youth must work for 49 minutes for the same purchase.  Taxes on cigarettes in Alberta would have to increase by at least $2.00 per pack in order to match affordability levels in Saskatchewan.

The coalition would like the revenue from a tobacco tax increase to be used for smoking prevention and cessation programs and to fund other wellness initiatives in the province. 

A 2006 telephone survey of 800 Albertans conducted by Ipsos-Reid revealed that 77% of Albertans would support a cigarette tax increase of $2.00 per pack if a portion of the revenue was directed to smoking prevention and cessation programs.

In 2010, the Alberta government’s targeted smoking rate for youth aged 12-19 was 10 percent and the actual rate was 14 percent as reported in last year’s Canadian Community Health Survey.  Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disease and premature death in Alberta, claiming 3,000 lives each year.  About 48,000 Alberta youth aged 12-19 are daily or occasional smokers.

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is a coalition of prominent health organizations who are working together to reduce tobacco use.

Leigh Allard @ 780-938-5864
Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546
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