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Canadian doctors: high cigarette taxes lead to less underage smoking

Dr. Milburn said that though the smoking rate among men and women has fallen more than 30 per cent in the past 51 years, the smoking rate among young people is at 20 per cent. Graphic/Global News

TORONTO – Cigarettes should be at least 24 per cent more expensive to prevent underage smokers from getting their hands on tobacco, according to Canada’s national advocacy group for medical professionals.

In a statement released Thursday, The Canadian Medical Association addressed proposed tax hikes for Canada’s tobacco industry in the Bill C-31, the federal government’s budget implementation plan.

Dr. Chris Milburn, speaking on behalf the CMA to the Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee, lauded the bill’s call to raise the excise duty on a carton of cigarettes from $17 – $21.03 – a 24 per cent increase.

The Senate sub-committee is tasked with reviewing the bill’s proposed changes.

“This tax increase is actually just readjusting to make up for inflation. The amount of tax paid has fallen in real dollars over the years, and needs to be adjusted to account for that,” said Dr. Milburn, who works as an emergency room physician from Sydney, N.S.

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Dr. Milburn said that though the smoking rate among men and women has fallen more than 30 per cent in the past 51 years, 20 per cent of young people are believed to smoke tobacco – and are more affected by price increases.

The CMA also stated that an 10 per cent increase in cigarette prices is believed to lead to a 5 per cent decrease in smoking.

“This provision of Bill C-31 will provide ammunition in the war against tobacco for years to come. And let’s all hope we don’t need another 50 years to eradicate smoking.”

Dr. Milburn also said benefits to public health would outweigh the risk of bolstering the contraband cigarette market.

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