When Multiple Deaths Can be Traced to a Government Tax, Why Isn’t the Tax Repealed?

Lee Friday – May 3, 2018

Highly taxed cigarettes bought legally through retailers are safer than their illegal counterparts. But high taxes fuel the black market, with deadly consequences. As the London Free Press reported:

The Ontario Liberals keep adding taxes to cigarettes in a bid to get smokers to butt out — a $4 per carton bump came in last month’s budget, with another one coming next year.

A carton of illegal smokes sells for between $20 and $30, compared to a store-bought carton that retails for around $100.

An annual analysis of discarded cigarette butts at eight London sites, including malls, hospitals and the casino, suggests contraband tobacco use was at 35.8 per cent last year, up from 26.8 per cent just three years earlier.

While store-bought smokes are made with special paper that makes them burn slower and self-extinguish, the illegal ones don’t have that safety feature, making them more likely to ignite furniture, clothing and other combustibles if left unattended.

Blazes started by careless smoking — [are] the No. 1 cause of fatal fire in Ontario . . .

London’s fire department is especially warning of the fallout of illegal butts, blaming them for four of the city’s last five deadly blazes.

Politicians often say that the intent of high taxation is to encourage us to kick the habit, thus improving our health. However, this claim appears to be based on a twisted sense of morality, a willingness to trade the lives of some people for the improved health of others. Furthermore, it may well be the case that cigarette taxes are detrimental to public health. As Katie Furtick and Julian Morris wrote:

Since the sale of contraband tobacco products is illegal, the vendors of such tobacco pay no heed to restrictions on the age of purchasers. So, unsurprisingly, contraband has become a popular source of tobacco consumption for minors …

Furtick and Morris also noted that:

According to Health Canada, 35% of Canadians smoked in 1985. That fell to just over 30% by the early 1990s and has continued to fall almost every year since then regardless of the tobacco tax rate. In fact, the rate of decline in smoking in the eight years following the 1994 tax cut was greater than the decline in the eight years after taxes were raised in 2002.

So, we see that Health Canada, a government agency, contradicts politicians’ “improved health” justification for higher tobacco taxes.

The municipal government (fire department) says illegal cigarettes are killing people. But politicians at the other levels of government don’t care about the fatal consequences of their policies, as they continue to raise, instead of repealing, Provincial and Federal cigarette taxes.

The purpose of tobacco taxes is to raise revenue for the government, pure and simple, regardless how many people lose their lives as a result of illegal, unsafe cigarettes.


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