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Some Saskatchewan vape store owners upset over new 20 per cent tax on products

Some Saskatchewan vape store owners said they are upset about the new 20 per cent tax on vape products introduced in the 2021-22 budget Tuesday. Robert F. Bukaty/ AP Photo

Vape store owners in the province aren’t thrilled after Saskatchewan introduced a new tax on vape products in its 2021-22 budget Tuesday.

The vapour products tax (VPT) is a 20 per cent tax on the retail price of all vapour liquids, products and devices effective Sept. 1.

As of that date, the province said only retailers with a VDT licence are allowed to sell those products.

Read more: Provincial consultation on flavoured vaping products underway in Saskatchewan

“It wasn’t a surprise. We kind of expected it to happen based on other provinces implementing a similar tax,” said Mike Smider, Queen City Vapes owner in Regina.

“It was only a matter of time before other provinces followed suit, like Alberta is getting their tax. Manitoba’s going to get one as well.”

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He said the most upsetting part of the tax is the impact it will have on those choosing to use vape products over tobacco.

“It will deter in some way folks that are interested in this product to utilize as a harm reduction product,” Smider said.

Read more: Nicotine concentration limit in vape products being proposed by Health Canada

“It’s a product designed by smokers for smokers to help them switch to a less harmful alternative of getting their nicotine.

“It will deter in a way that will make it a little bit unaffordable, especially for those of lower income.”

Dane Rusk owns and operates Element Vapes in Regina and said the tax will do nothing but put an unnecessary financial strain on vape users.

“I personally think the tax will actually hurt the average adult vaper,” Rusk said.

“As adults, we have bills, mortgages, rent, car payments and kids to feed. I think it’ll make it a lot more expensive and unattainable for us to get a safer and less harmful alternative than cigarettes.”

Read more: Saskatchewan projects 4 more years of deficits in 2021-22 budget

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Saskatchewan’s Health Minister Paul Merriman said Tuesday the tax was introduced to reduce vaping, including among youth.

“There’s been a huge increase in people under 25 using vapes. Initially, it was a smoking alternative, but there are negative health effects. We want to discourage people from vaping,” Merriman said.

Rusk isn’t sold on the province’s explanation when it comes to deterring young people from vaping.

“I don’t think it’ll work. Kids have access to disposable income. They don’t hesitate to purchase multiple pairs of $300 Nikes,” Rusk said.

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“A tax will do nothing to deter the youth from getting their vape product.”

Smider said he’s on board if it does prevent young people from vaping, but is skeptical that will happen.

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“I don’t necessarily see it in a bad way if it’s going to help keep these products out of the hands of youth,” Smider said.

“It’s hard to say. When I was young, I got my hands on whatever I wanted, regardless.”

The province also announced a heat-not-burn tax on tobacco sticks Tuesday. The tax rate will be 20.5 cents per stick, effective June 1.

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