Smokers should continue to pay plenty in taxes on tobacco

Premier kills idea of MSP surcharge on smokers

Clark opposes de Jong proposal to tinker with premiums

Premier Christy Clark has blocked Health Minister Mike de Jong’s idea of charging smokers higher MSP premiums to reflect the extra burden they put on B.C. health care system.

“I don’t support it,” the premier said Friday, two days after de Jong told Black Press he was “seriously looking” at the idea.

Clark said it’s a slippery slope to start charging higher MSP premiums based on people’s personal behaviour.

“People pay more taxes because they pay taxes on cigarettes,” Clark said.

She added that if the government needs to raise more revenue from smokers, it should raise taxes on tobacco.

B.C. is already getting more revenue from tobacco since July 2010 when the harmonized sales tax took effect, increasing the price by seven per cent because the provincial sales tax did not apply to tobacco here.

Reverting back to the GST/PST system would mean tobacco taxes go back down unless B.C. opts to raise its separate tax on tobacco.

De Jong raised the notion of an MSP surcharge on smokers in a panel discussion at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

He gave no details, calling it a concept under exploration.

“I think smokers would be upset to be singled out,” de Jong said. “But we want them to be upset because they are engaged in a behaviour that is costing the rest of society billions of dollars.

De Jong raised the issue as he outlined government plans to carve money out of existing health spending to fund new initiatives to prevent chronic illness and reduce long-term costs.

B.C. already spends nearly $100 million a year on health promotion and disease prevention.

Victoria’s latest move is to fully fund nicotine patches and other smoking cessation aids.

Smokers will no longer have the excuse of not being able to afford to pay for help to quit smoking, de Jong said, adding the $15 million required will come from other parts of the health budget.

More than 300 people signed up in the first hours as the new program launched Friday.

Smokers make up just 14 per cent of the B.C. population – the lowest rate in Canada – but de Jong said cutting that to 12 or 10 per cent would still save billions of dollars.

He said there’s no new money to fund disease prevention initiatives, so cash much come from other health spending, adding that may mean difficult decisions ahead.

B.C.’s health budget has climbed from $4.8 billion in 1990, when it made up 32 per cent of all government spending, to $16 billion now or 45 per cent.

“We keep plundering other budgets to feed an insatiable appetite in health care,” de Jong said. “We are going to have to live within our means in health care and actually shift the emphasis.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Epic first year for GW Graham curling crew

A team of upstarts has won an Eastern Valley banner and now goes hunting for a B.C. championship.

Take a run out to the corner store when Kim’s Convenience comes to Chilliwack

The play that inspired the hit television show is coming to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Chilliwack’s Deanna Tuchscherer named Canada West Rookie of the Year

Tuchscherer is also in the running for the U-Sports award which will be announced next week.

Chilliwack SPCA receives grant to help control feral cat populations

The local SPCA branch was one of 10 animal welfare groups who received grants this week

BC Seniors Advocate calls for better oversight in care home industry

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Aspiring entrepreneurs invited to pitch ideas at Dragons’ Den auditions

Abbotsford and Vancouver the only Lower Mainland try-out locations

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan resolute in support of northern B.C. pipeline

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

BREAKING: Kelowna RCMP to further investigate 12 sexual assault cases, create sexual assault unit

Recommendations come five months after it was revealed 40% of sexual assaults were deemed ‘unfounded’

Explicit Greta sticker linked to Alberta company draws outrage

The sticker includes the logo of Red Deer-based X-Site Energy Services

Share Now, formerly Car2Go, leaves Canada with valuable data in changing market: expert

Vancouver was its largest market in North America, with more than 300,000 customers

Police seize nine guns, machetes, drugs from tent in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park

Police believe the tent is a communal or shared space and no single occupant has been identified

Most Read