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Budget a huge step in reducing smoking rates, says health group

Budget a huge step in reducing smoking rates, say health groups

Regina - March 24, 2010 - Health groups say tobacco tax measures announced in today’s budget are a key component to reducing Saskatchewan’s stubbornly high smoking rates.

“Cheap cigarettes encourage young people to start smoking and discourage smokers from quitting. Today’s tobacco tax increase is one of the most effective ways the government can reduce smoking”, says Lynn Greaves of the Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reduction.

Effective midnight the cost for a carton of 200 cigarettes will increase by $5.40, making tobacco prices in Saskatchewan among the highest in Canada. “This is the first significant tobacco tax increase we’ve seen in the province since 2004. Since then the economy and wages have improved making the real price of cigarettes more affordable. When you’re trying to keep kids from smoking, the last thing you want is cheap cigarettes,” added Donna Pasiechnik from the Canadian Cancer Society. 

Health groups are also pleased with measures announced to address the growing volume of taxexempt tobacco being sold in Saskatchewan. The decision to reduce the weekly 3 carton limit of tax-exempt tobacco to First Nations individuals will help to address the high smoking rates among aboriginal people and the health consequences associated with tobacco use. “There are so many health issues of almost epidemic proportions among First Nations people, things like diabetes, heart disease & stroke and cancer. So much of this illness is directly related to smoking”, says Rhae Ann Bromley of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan. 

The province also announced new contraband measures including different tax markings for tax-exempt tobacco and a better tracking system for tobacco sold on reserve. 

Saskatchewan has one of the highest smoking rates in Canada. Evidence shows that the most effective way to reduce smoking is to have a combination of strong tax policy, legislation and public education programs. This budget reflects the government’s commitment to address the number one preventable cause of sickness and death in the province. According to the Cost of Tobacco Use in Saskatchewan 2009, tobacco costs the provincial economy more than 1 billion dollars a year in direct and indirect costs. More than 15 hundred people die each year in the province from tobacco use. 

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For more information contact:

Lynn Greaves, Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reduction 306-766-6327
Rhae Ann Bromley, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan 306-631-8559
Donna Pasiechnik, Canadian Cancer Society 306-790-9871 or 306-533-5288

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