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This article was published 14/5/2019 (283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Pallister government is moving to ensure that tobacco prices in Manitoba do not fall after the PST is reduced to seven per cent on July 1.
Reacting to public pressure, Finance Minister Scott Fielding introduced a bill in the legislature Tuesday to boost tobacco taxes in order to offset the upcoming price reduction.
Under Bill 31, the Tobacco Tax Amendment Act, the tax per cigarette would rise to 30 cents, up from 29.5 cents. The tax on fine-cut tobacco would increase to 45.5 cents per gram from the current 45 cents, while the levy on raw-leaf tobacco would rise to 27.5 cents per gram from 27 cents.
"We are pleased to follow through on the advice we received from the Canadian Cancer Society and its partner agencies to maintain the retail selling price of tobacco," Fielding said in introducing the bill.
Last month, several anti-smoking groups, including the cancer society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Lung Association of Manitoba and the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance, pressed the government to make the change.
The groups had lobbied the government on the issue in advance of the March 7 budget, but Fielding said Tuesday that their petition came too late in the process to make changes.
He admitted that government hadn't considered that the PST cut would lower tobacco prices, calling it was an "unintended consequence."
A tax increase of $1.15 on a carton of cigarettes would keep the price at about the same level as it is today, the cancer society said.
Fielding emphasized that smokers won't pay more as a result of Bill 31. "They just won't benefit from the reduction in the PST," he said.
Sarah Hawkins, health policy analyst with the cancer society, said her organization is pleased with the bill.
"We think the government is taking a good, proactive step to protect Manitoba youth," she said.
The longtime decline in smoking rates is waning, Hawkins said, and anti-smoking groups are already concerned that with new nicotine products emerging there is potential for an increase in tobacco use in the future.
"There's potential for backtracking if we don't keep steady on our tobacco-control programming and continue to fund and work towards tobacco reduction," she said.
Meanwhile, Manitoba's Opposition parties vowed to back the bill. Both the NDP and the Liberals said the government should have listened to the concerns of anti-smoking groups earlier.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.