Saskatchewan, Canada - tobacco tax increase begining April 1, 2010..

March 27, 2010 - REGINA, Saskatchewan — as of midnight Wednesday, March 31st smokers will be paying 2.7 cents more per cigarette due to a 14.75-percent increase in the tobacco tax. The tax on a package of cigarettes is going from $4.50 to $5.25. Taxes on cut/loose tobacco are going up by 21 cents per gram and cigars by 100 per cent of the retail price, subject to the existing minimum and maximum tax amounts per cigar. - let's not forget the famous words of Lynn Greaves, when she was VP of the Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reduction, "Tobacco taxation has been the strongest tobacco reduction measure that exists in the world today."

In what will likely be the most controversial move, subject to the passing of legislation, First Nations individuals could be seeing a significant decrease in the amount of cigarettes they can purchase tax-free. If the government gets its way, on-reserve, tax-free cigarette purchases will be limited to one carton per customer per week — down from three.

That's already met with criticism from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, which claims the move will cost First Nations businesses millions in lost revenue. "This is a serious infringement on Treaty Rights without the benefit of meaningful consultation," FSIN Vice Chief Morley Watson said in a written statement. "The Province has extended its authority beyond its jurisdiction. The Province is unilaterally changing quotas on how much tobacco First Nations people can purchase. This is Indian Agent mentality. The old Indian Agent would tell us how much grain, wood, fence posts and other goods we could produce and provide for our families."
(Fewer tax-free cigarettes for First Nations, 3/24/2010)

While Health Minister Don McMorris said he understands First Nations people might be upset by the proposed change, as far as the government's concerned, it's strictly about health. "I'm going to look at what is better for the health of our general population, how to reduce some of the harmful effects of tobacco use, and that is my only goal is to reduce those harmful effects," he said. "I can understand some of their frustration, but I also understand the costs that it has to the health care system."

Donna Pasiechnik with the Canadian Cancer Society was thrilled with the government's direction. "We recognize that smoking rates are very high among First Nations people," she said. "We know the importance of price in reducing tobacco use and so no smoker was not affected by these measures today."

From a business perspective, Colin Craig, Prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, also praised the government's announced intention to reduce the number of tax-free cigarettes sold on First Nations, stating, "If you can level the playing field between activities on reserve and off, I think that's a step in the right direction."

McMorris said he's "very confident" the legislation will pass.

But New Democratic Party (NDP) health critic Judy Junor wasn't enthusiastic about either the proposed legislation or the increase in tobacco tax. While she acknowledged tax increases do lead to decreased smoking, she claimed the decrease is "marginal."

"People will just do without something else," she said. "People who are truly addicted, they're going to go find another way to get the cigarettes and that will be less food, shelter costs, clothing, school supplies, whatever."

All in all, the tobacco-related changes would mean $35.7 million more in revenue for government.

Meanwhile, the beverage alcohol price increase means an estimated $18.1 million more for the province's General Revenue Fund. Effective April 1, most 750-millilitre bottles of premium spirits will go up by 50 cents; 1,140-ml bottles by 75 cents; and a dozen bottles of beer by 75 cents. Higher-end wine and spirits will also increase in price by about five per cent, although cheaper wine products (below $20) in the 750-ml size won't change in price. The alcohol price increases are the result of changes to the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority's markup structure.

Reference: Price of alcohol and cigarettes increasing in Saskatchewan, HEATHER POLISCHUK (, Leader-Post, 3/25/2010.

Saskatchewan - some related news briefs:
Saskatchewan - proposed legislation to ban people from smoking in cars carrying kids plus..;
Saskatchewan - stores mull options on tobacco law..;
Saskatchewan - new anti-tobacco legislation expected soon..;
Saskatchewan - new anti-tobacco legislation expected soon..;
Tobacco displays are on their way out in an increasing number of countries..;