Internet cigarettes blow rings around taxes, laws
REGINA - Government agencies have been trying to discourage smoking through tax hikes and advertising restrictions, but the Internet has become a place the government is losing the battle against cigarettes.
CBC Radio was able to purchase a carton of American cigarettes over the World Wide Web for just over $57 Canadian â€“ considerably less than the $75 for a comparable carton of Canadian cigarettes. Part of the savings came from not paying $32 in provincial tobacco tax.
The Saskatchewan Lung Association is concerned about how easily people can buy cigarettes over the Internet.
Paul Van Loon is with the Lung Association, and says the ease of ordering online could encourage smoking.
"Even though they're supposed to pay taxes, they're not, so that means they're getting a much cheaper product, and cheaper product means people tend to smoke more. Those who might have quit are less likely to quit, and all the ramifications from that," Van Loon says.
Roy Schneider from Saskatchewan's Finance Department says the problem is not widespread, even though they can't monitor precisely how widespread it may be.
"We can track in a more general sense," says Schneider, "based on what we see with revenue, and that's been holding steady. So there's no reason at our end to think it's really a significant problem at this point"
Van Loon worries about the potential growth of cigarette sales over the Internet. He's also concerned that young people who are under the legal smoking age could be buying cigarettes this way.
"There have been some studies done in the United States and some sting operations done where they have shown that youth do get easy access to this," says Van Loon.