Massive Tobacco Taxes Are Pushing ‘Blue-Collar Workers’ To Black Market Cigarettes
Smokers in Canada are increasingly turning to the black market for cigarettes, which public health experts argue is a result of ever rising tobacco taxes in the country.
Researchers commissioned by the Ontario Convenience Store Association recently found that nearly a third of smokers in the province bought their cigarettes illegally in 2017. Roughly 31 percent of the smoking population in Ontario was found to use contraband cigarettes, up from 25 percent only a year ago, reports Vaping Post.
Researchers, who have conducted the study annually for 10 years, say the shift to the black market appears to be driven by high taxes on tobacco products, which the provincial government raised by $3 a carton last year.
“It’s really gotten out of control, and I don’t think the government has any idea on how to fix it,” David Bryans, president of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, recently told CBC News. “What are you going to do if you’re an addicted smoker, a blue-collar worker? [The government has] been convinced that higher taxation will help people quit smoking. Not if you have a resource that you can’t ignore.”
Researchers collected and analyzed 18,000 cigarette butts found on the streets of Ontario to determine how many were purchased legally. The Association admits their study is not scientific, but notes it offers meaningful comparisons given they’ve been conducting the research annually for a decade.
The shift to black market cigarettes appears to undermine the argument of tobacco regulators that high taxes will push users into quitting. Public health experts routinely blast Canada for their “abstinence only” approach to tobacco control and refusal to acknowledge the public health utility of electronic cigarettes.
Lawmakers recently passed a measure that will prevent vaping businesses from making any claims about products that are not approved by the government. The legislation is currently awaiting a vote in the House of Commons.
Safer products that satiate smokers’ appetite for nicotine are key to reducing smoking rates and ultimately eradicating the habit, public health advocates focused on harm reduction argue. Restrictive laws on alternative smoking technologies are simply keeping people hook on cigarettes.
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