Edmonton – A recent online survey of 1,005 Albertans conducted by Leger Research reveals that 75 percent of respondents want the Alberta government to reinvest one-third of tobacco taxes in effective strategies to help smokers quit and to keep youth from starting to use tobacco.
“The Alberta government does not dedicate a single dime of the one billion dollars it collects annually from tobacco taxes to help smokers quit or keeping kids tobacco-free” said Les Hagen of Action on Smoking & Health (ASH). “The survey results reveal that Albertans expect the government to reinvest a significant portion of tobacco tax revenue into tobacco reduction and prevention. 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. This deadly double standard cannot be justified. What’s good for carbon reduction is good for tobacco reduction”.
The Alberta government provides some funding for tobacco reduction out of the Alberta Health budget. However these funds are not derived from dedicated tobacco taxes. The Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy is largely unfunded and unimplemented and provincial smoking rates remain above the national average. The government is currently spending about $4 million in direct programs and services to reduce tobacco use—or about on dollar per capita. This marginal investment represents less than one percent of the one billion dollars collected annually from tobacco taxes.
“Albertans will be appalled to learn that the tobacco reduction strategy is being allowed to flounder while the government collects over one billion in tobacco taxes annually” said Kayla Atkey of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention. “We are urging the government to increase its investment in tobacco reduction to at least $20 million annually or about two percent of total tobacco revenues. The provincial government will not meet its ambitious 10-year tobacco reduction targets without fully implementing the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy. We urge the Alberta government to do the right thing and invest appropriately in effective strategies to reduce and prevent tobacco use”.
The Leger Research survey also revealed that two-thirds of Alberta respondents (68%) support a cigarette tax increase of at least $1.50 per 20 pack in the upcoming provincial budget.
“Tobacco taxes are the single most effective means of reducing tobacco use, especially among youth” said Kate Chidestor of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “Alberta has the most affordable cigarettes in
Canada as the result of supressed taxes and high wages. It only takes 22 minutes of labour for Albertans
to purchase a pack of 20 cigarettes in Alberta compared with 25 minutes in British Columbia and 26 minutes in Saskatchewan. Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from tobacco use and pricing is the most effective tool to keep kids tobacco-free. As long as Alberta maintains the most affordable cigarettes in Canada, we will continue to fight tobacco use with one hand tied behind our back. However if tobacco taxes are raised and some of the proceeds are used to support tobacco reduction then we will have a fighting chance to meet the 10-year targets.”
The coalition recently submitted a brief on tobacco taxation to Finance Minister Joe Ceci in response to the provincial budget consultation. The brief called for a cigarette tax increase of at least $1.50 per 20 pack and the reinvestment of at least $20 million of the new revenue to properly fund the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy. The proposed tax increase would allow Alberta to match cigarette affordability levels in B.C. and would generate over $200 million annually in new tobacco revenue.
The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is a coalition of prominent health organizations that are working to reduce tobacco use. Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature death—claiming the lives of 3,000 Albertans annually. About 37,000 Alberta teens were current tobacco smokers when last measured in 2014.
The Leger Research online survey was conducted between January 23 and 25 among 1,005 Albertans aged 18 and over.
- 30 -
Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546
Kayla Atkey @ 780-695-6370
Holly Roy @ 708 991 2323