Nunavut smokers beware: the Tobacco Tax is about to rise
A pack of 20 smokes will cost $1 more after MLAs approve tax hike
If you’re a smoker in Nunavut, you’ll pay more for every cigarette you smoke after MLAs approve another hike in the territorial Tobacco Tax.
Bill 42, now entering the final stages of discussion at the Nunavut legislature, will raise tobacco taxes by five cents per cigarette—the first increase since 2012.
This will see a pack of 20 cigarettes rise in price by $1, and a pack of 25 by $1.25. That will raise retail prices close to $20 a pack and beyond in most places.
The goal of the tax increase: to keep the numbers of smokers down.
“We know tax increases are effective,” Finance Minister Keith Peterson told Nunatsiaq News in an email. “The World Health Organization has looked at evidence from countries around the world. They say that taxing tobacco products is the most effective way of lowering tobacco use. We see that here in Nunavut, too. In fact, the only two years in the last decade that Nunavummiut bought fewer cigarettes than the year before were the two years following tax increases.”
Peterson said the WHO also says that children and teenagers are more sensitive to price increases than adults. This means the higher taxes should have a greater impact on the smoking rates of young Nunavummiut.
“This is why our government is proposing the tax on cigarettes by $0.05/cigarette, the first increase in five years,” he said in his email.
Bill 42, which received its first reading Feb. 28 and second reading March 1, now goes to the Legislative Assembly’s standing committee on legislation.
If enacted, the bill will raise the tax:
• from 25 cents per cigarette to 30 cents per cigarette;
• from 20 cents per gram to 40 cents per gram for loose tobacco, defined as “any form of tobacco other than cigarettes or cigars;” and,
• from 20 cents per gram to 30 cents per gram of any form of non-smoked tobacco.
The increase in these taxes will be felt throughout Nunavut where many Nunavut adults—more than eight in 10 in some Nunavut communities—are smokers.
A Statistics Canada report released this past Feb. 17 estimated that as of 2012, 60 to 66 per cent of Inuit living in Nunavut and aged 15 and older are daily smokers.
For Inuit living within the other three regions of Inuit Nunangat as of 2012, it’s 63 to 70 per cent for Nunavik, 53 to 62 per cent for the Inuvialuit settlement region, and 46.1 to 54.8 per cent for Nunatsiavut.
But the proportion of daily smokers among Inuit living outside Inuit Nunangat is estimated at about only 23 to 36 per cent, Statistics Canada reported.
Smoking already costs the average Nunavut smoker more than $6,000 a year, adding up to more than 56 million cigarettes smoked in Nunavut every year.
So the increase in taxes per cigarette could bring in an additional $2.8 million to Nunavut in tax revenues.
This could help offset the huge health costs associated with tobacco use in Nunavut where lung cancer, in most cases related to smoking, is three times the national average.
Earlier this year, the Government of Nunavut came out with a strong anti-smoking message during National Non-Smoking Week.
The Nunavut health department also runs an public education campaign called Tobacco Has No Place Here.
After Bill 42 goes to the legislature’s standing committee on legislation, it will likely come back for its final reading and a vote in the legislature and then receive assent from the Nunavut Commissioner.
Quebec has also used tax hikes to encourage the roughly 50,000 smokers in the province to quit.