Tobacco tax relief not forthcoming, finance minister says

Darrell Cole
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HALIFAX - Smokers and storeowners hoping for cheaper cigarettes on this side of the border better not hold their breath.

Finance Minister Graham Steele all but ruled out any chance that he might lower the tobacco tax in Nova Scotia to help convenience store owners on this side of the border.
"It's a health issue," Steele said Friday.
"The single best way to discourage smoking, particularly among young people, is through price and that's not likely to change."
Tobacco taxes in New Brunswick are lower because that province shares a border with Quebec, where most of Canada's illegal cigarettes originate. The minister said the province has to keep its tobacco taxes lower to combat the infiltration of illegal tobacco into the province.
While illegal tobacco is also present in Nova Scotia, the challenge is not as great here meaning taxes don't need to be lowered.
Despite that, Steele said, the health issue is the main reason taxes are higher in this province.
The minister understands when tobacco prices are added to lower milk and gas prices, it makes it more attractive for shoppers to cross the border. However, lowering the tax on tobacco is not an issue.
He's also not in favour of creating a separate tobacco tax zone for Cumberland County because it would simply move the problem from one county to another.
"It's an issue you have with border towns. I'm not about to say I have a magic solution on what is a very real and long-standing issue," he said.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec Canada Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Robert
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Finance Minister Graham Steele is bringing his travelling road show to seek input on how to balance to the provincial books to the Amherst Lions Club on February 22nd from 7 to 9 PM. We need to fill the hall and let him no that we do not support an HST increase.

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I didn't even realize that anyone, other than a small handful of Amherst finest convenience store operators, was asking for a change in tobacco tax. I agree 100% with Graham Steele's stance on this, and would go one step further and say that we should increase the tobacco tax even further in order to lower the taxes on the important things (milk and gas). Using the same argument, that higher taxes are supposed to deter smokers, lower taxes on milk should be used to encourage healthy choices. Those who would oppose the higher tax on tabacco are already buying cigarettes in NB or through alternative channels anyway.

    BTW, thanks for the announcement Rob, I'll do my best to be at the Lion's Den on Feb 22.

  • Ryan
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I for one 100% agree with this heck I say do away with tabaccoo period its a horrible habit that destroys the health of people and children as young as 10 now are smoking cigarettes, I say ban them! make them illegal and burn all of tabacco grown in canada and the usa, cigarettes lead to the deaths of 100's if not 1000's every year maybe the government should wake up and realize that killing its citizens is not the way to go!

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Mad Mac, I gotta disagree with you. Taxes are a deterrant, and are effective in reducing the incidence of people starting to smoke as well as encouraging smokers to quit. I speak from experience as a recently reformed smoker whose family members also made the same choice, or have stated that they plan to because of the cost. Sure, there are some die hards who will continue and will buy them elsewhere, but if you look at the whole picture you'll see that taxes work in this situation. The number of smokers is on the decline.

    It's a tough habit to kick, probably the toughest, and there are many, many smokers who want to quit. The more reasons there are to do so, the better and that included higher prices. Sending people across the border or to illegal cigarettes brings a whole new set of deterrants and that's great too.

  • Mad Mac
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Fuzzy Bear I disagree with you on the high taxes being a deterent to smoking. People are going to smoke and they are going to buy them where they are cheapest wether it's N.B., or the illegal ones. Like any good shopper you go where you get the best deal. If I am going to buy anything I check to see if it's on sale first and than I shop for the best price. Big box store or not. I will put money back in my pocket if possible. Supporting local only goes so far, if they want to be in business they have to be competitive. I run my own business this way. If my price is to high people will go elsewhere. I buy 99 percent of my supplies in N.S., but if the HST goes up I will buy 100 percent in N.B. Just going to make myself more competitive.

  • Fuzzy Bear
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Being a non-smoker it's hard for me to have too much sympathy for the smokers delima here. Smoking has and always will be a personal choice!! The higher taxes on cigarettes is definately a deterent and if that is the underlying aim of the provincial governments as a result of health related issues then they are justified in maintaining the status quo. My only questions is ...what would happen if everyone in NS quit smoking tomorrow. What tax winfall would suddenly be gone and how would this affect the overall political coffers. Let me guess...they will need to up our taxes on something or everything to handle the considerable loss of revenue.
    Remember people this money is needed so that no politician would be given undue stress for having insufficiuent funds available when they want to buy their big screen TV's, DVD recorders, MP3's and oh yes sand their driveways.
    However milk and gas are another issues. Milk price differences just boggles my mind. Cows don't care where they live....none that I talked to anyways...and is New Brunswick grass better that ours here in NS. Maybe NB'ers do get higher octane levels and higher milk production from their grasses. Now I think I'm safe to say that is bogus. The difference is TAXES!!
    Nova Scotians are being MILKED every day by our governments...all of them!! Milk is a staple for the health and welfare of people and children according to Health Canada postings anyways.
    Now for the gas issue....besides the cheaper gas 6 kms away from here the only other cheap gas supply is the unlimited reserves that seems to be rampant throughout the NS politicial system.

  • sparky00
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Greg, I have to agree with both you and mad mac on this. Yes higher prices are a deterrent. But on the other hand if people are purchasing cigarettes across the border, those tax dollars are lost and yet our health system has to cover the costs of these people still.
    It's a darned if you do, darned if you don't situation IMO.

  • lmao
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Joe Blow is dead on! And absolutely hialrious as well! The only thing more funny is Darrell Cole's coverage of this non-issue.

  • Joe
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Hate to sound dramatic and alarmist but this is the straw that will break Amherst`s back. All over priced convenience stores will be closed. Expect lots of closures soon. Will someone write a song but the expensive smokes in Amherst?

    My god won't someone think of the children!!! This is on your head Skabar!!! How will our children afford to locally smoke? What about our childrens children? Oh the humanity.