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‘Deadly double standard’: Should Alberta use tobacco taxes to help smokers quit?

Health Matters: Feb. 8
WATCH ABOVE: In Wednesday's edition of Health Matters, Su-Ling Goh looks at what some people think should be done with tobacco tax revenues, a new program helping people with osteoarthritis and an event aimed at getting children to be more active.

An anti-tobacco advocacy group says there is a “deadly double standard” when it comes to Alberta’s carbon and tobacco taxes.

“If the government can reinvest a substantial portion of the carbon levy into carbon reduction, then surely it can reinvest a portion of tobacco taxes into tobacco reduction,” said Les Hagen with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

“This deadly double standard cannot be justified.”

A January 2017 online survey of more than 1,000 Albertans shows 75 per cent want the government to reinvest one third of tobacco taxes in strategies to help smokers quit and to prevent young people from starting to use tobacco.

According to the Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta, the province currently spends $4 million per year on tobacco reduction programs, but that money comes from the health budget.

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Alberta collects $1 billion per year in tobacco taxes.

“The Alberta government does not dedicate a single dime of the $1 billion it collects annually from tobacco taxes to help smokers quit or to keep kids tobacco-free,” Hagen said.

“We are urging the government to increase its investment in tobacco reduction to at least $20 million annually, or about two per cent of total tobacco revenues,” said Kayla Atkey of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention.

Alberta Health press secretary Timothy Wilson emailed Global News this statement:

The province allocates close to $20 billion to health care in Alberta, and this includes Alberta Health Services smoking cessation and prevention programs. We raised tobacco tax rates in 2015 by five dollars a carton, and banned flavoured tobacco, including menthol cigarettes. While we are not looking at more revenue levers at this time, the government will continue to work with all of our partners to support the downward trend in smoking rates for Albertans.

The Leger Research survey also revealed 68 per cent of respondents support a cigarette tax increase of at least $1.50 per 20 pack in the upcoming provincial budget.