Learning Objectives: Describe how a government can be convinced to increase tobacco taxes.
The Alberta government has maintained one of the lowest tobacco taxes in Canada and the lowest overall tax burden in the country. In February 2002, Alberta had the third lowest tobacco taxes of any Canadian province and one of the lowest cigarette prices in North America. Alberta’s low tobacco taxes have contributed to one of the highest rates of per-capita consumption in Canada.
The objective of our campaign was to convince the Alberta government of the need for higher tobacco taxes. The multi-year campaign involved meetings with elected officials, media advocacy, and community mobilization. A key aspect of the campaign was to tie tobacco reduction and taxation to the government’s overall healthcare reform agenda.
On March 19 2002, the Alberta government approved the single largest tobacco tax increase ever recorded (C$1.80 per 20-pack or about US$1.20 per 20-pack). Alberta now has the highest tobacco taxes in North America. This major tax increase is expected to reduce adult tobacco consumption by about 10% and youth consumption by 20% to 40%. An estimated 40,000 Alberta smokers are expected to quit smoking as the result of the tax increase.
Alberta’s tobacco tax increase demonstrates that fiscally conservative governments are prepared to substantially increase tobacco taxes when they are convinced that the measure will (1) not compromise overall tax policy, (2) support healthcare reform, (3) raise additional revenue, (4) reduce tobacco use, and (5) be publicly supported.
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