B.C. smokers hit by sin tax

Kamloops Daily News
February 23, 2013 01:00 AM

B.C. smokers likely won't get much sympathy now that the provincial government has decided to raise the tax on a carton of cigarettes by another $2.

In fact, Tuesday's B.C. budget harkens back to the days when increases to so-called sin taxes were almost a given when governments needed a financial boost.

Government in need of more revenue? Crank up the cost of booze. Cupboards getting bare? Put the slam on smokers.

With the increase announced in this week's budget, a carton of smokes will ring in at something just short of your first-born child. The government's take will be a shade over $44, or about $4.40 cents a pack.

There's no doubt that cost is a big factor for smokers - even the die-hard ones. But the impact of higher prices will no doubt be felt the most by youngsters who have been lured into the death spiral that smoking represents.

According to Kathryn Seely of the Canadian Cancer Society, the $2-a-carton levy doesn't go far enough. Her group was pushing for $3 a carton.

"Studies show that increases in tobacco prices cause some smokers to quit," Seely told The Vancouver Sun during an interview this week. "Particularly the youth, who are price sensitive - it can cause them to not take up the habit."

Ain't that the truth. If kids can manage to stay away from tobacco long enough to think about the terrible and expensive consequences of smoking, there's a good chance they'll just say no to cigarettes and resist the temptation to give them a try.

But it's not just the tobacco companies and pressure from friends they have to worry about.

The B.C. Healthy Living Alliance noted this week that because of the way films are rated in Canada, 94 per cent of the movies depicting smoking that are nominated in major Oscar categories this weekend are youth-rated.

That's up from 47 per cent in the U.S.

In a news release, the Healthy Living Alliance said American studies suggest that movies with smoking recruit "more than one-third of new young smokers each year."

If the government is going to try to tax cigarettes out of the hands of young people, it might as well do its best to ensure kids are not exposed to tobacco in more subtle but no less sinister ways.

To accomplish that, it might best heed the advice of the Alliance and either give tobacco use consideration when rating films or limit tax credits for productions that feature the use of tobacco.

We can't afford to send mixed messages to our children when it comes to smoking.

© Kamloops Daily News

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