FOCUS-Canada ups cigarette tax, vows to cut smoking
OTTAWA, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Canada on Friday said it was raising tobacco taxes in five eastern provinces and vowed to intensify its efforts to cut smoking, particularly among the young.
The finance department said in a statement that it would increase cigarette taxes in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island by 60 cents a carton from midnight on Friday.
It also said that the current temporary 40 percent surtax on the profits of tobacco manufacturers -- which raises C$70 million annually -- would be made permanent next year.
Canada slashed federal cigarette taxes in 1994 in a bid to combat widespread smuggling from the United States but health groups said this had done little to help the battle against tobacco, which kills around 45,000 Canadians a year.
``Tax increases are one part of our overall strategy to reduce smoking rates, particularly among young Canadians,'' Health Minister Allan Rock said in the statement.
``We must also intensify our efforts to reduce this leading cause of preventable death through means such as tough anti-tobacco advertising, upcoming labeling and information reporting regulations, and other measures,'' he said.
Federal taxes per 200 tobacco sticks -- a standard carton -- will rise by C$1.08 in Quebec and Ontario, C$0.80 in Prince Edward Island and C$0.40 in New Brunswick.
The hikes in federal taxes will bring in an additional C$70 million a year.
The finance ministry said Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick would also be raising taxes on tobacco but gave no details.
``The measures introduced today reaffirm the government's determination to reduce tobacco consumption in Canada,'' said Finance Minister Paul Martin.
Health groups say the per capita smoking reduction in the five eastern provinces -- which supported the 1994 tax cuts -- has fallen by 8 percent in the last eight years.
In Canada's five central and western provinces, which did not go along with the tax cuts, the rate fell by 24 percent in the same period.
The 1994 federal-provincial taxes were cut by C$14 to C$21 per carton in the five provinces from around C$30. In the other five, the federal government cut its share of taxes by C$5.
Since then, Ottawa and the eastern provinces have restored a small portion of the cuts in three stages.