Smokers hit with $4 hike on cigarette cartons in Ontario budget | Toronto Star

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Starting Thursday morning, smokers will be paying $4 more for a carton of cigarettes following a measure introduced in the 2018 provincial budget.
This is a continuing plan that was announced in last year’s budget, that follows a $2 per carton bump in 2017, with another $4 increase coming in 2019.
“Higher tobacco taxes are the most effective strategy to reduce smoking especially among teenagers who have less disposable income,’ said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society. “We strongly support higher taxes to reduce smoking, prevent cancer, and save lives.”
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However, according to the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA), the tax increase will do more harm than good.
Tobacco contraband already makes up for 37 per cent of all cigarettes smoked in Ontario and this is just going to fuel it, said Dave Bryans, the CEO of OCSA.
“Its unfair and irresponsible to continuously tax the legal market and push small businesses out of the market. The government needs to figure out another way.”
Cunningham says the federal government has included other measures to reduce contraband tobacco in their budget.
According to the 2018 federal budget, the government will invest $80.5 million over five years in the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy, which is meant to limit the distribution of contraband tobacco.
Despite several years of projected deficits in his latest budget, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa says built in “prudence” will allow a return to balance. Opposition leaders said the Liberals are trying to win votes with spending. (The Canadian Press) “Tobacco taxation is known to be one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, and to keep tobacco products out of the hands of young people,” the budget said.
Cunningham said contraband, in the Canadian context, is not caused by higher taxes but rather proximity to available supply so there are ways to curtail that.
With files from Canadian Press and Jaren Kerr
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