New Brunswick

'Definitely unfair': Smokers unhappy with boost to N.B. tobacco tax

Smoking is becoming even more expensive in New Brunswick after Feb. 1 as the province implements its second tax hike on tobacco in two years.

The New Brunswick government is boosting taxes for tobacco products on Feb. 1

Taxes on tobacco products will rise on Feb. 1 by 6.25 cents per cigarette over two years. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Smoking is becoming even more expensive in New Brunswick as the province implements its second tax hike on tobacco in two years.  

The jump goes into effect Feb. 1 and will cost smokers $6.25 in taxes for a 25 cigarette pack. That's without HST.

A regular pack of cigarettes at a corner store now costs anywhere from $8 to $13.

While it may not sound like much, the increase is expected to generate about $25 million in additional revenue.

In a government press release, finance minister Cathy Rogers said the tax revenue will be used for health care, education, and more.

"Taxes on tobacco are imposed to discourage smoking and to help pay for the additional costs smoking imposes on our health system," Rogers said.

The increase was announced in the 2016-17 budget, which will see taxes rise for tobacco products by 6.52 cents per cigarette over two years.

The first tax increase was implemented in early 2016, bringing the tax rate on tobacco products from 19 cents to 22.26 cents. Now, the tax rate will increase by another 3.26 cents to 25.52 cents.

Smokers say they'll likely keep paying

At Korner Grocery in Saint John, night manager Jeff Elliott said most people buying cigarettes already know about the tax hike.

Nonetheless, Elliott was reminding his customers of the increase prior to Feb. 1.

"I'll say 'are you sure you wouldn't want an extra one?'" he said. "Because they are going up quite substantially."

A smoker himself, Elliott said he's not too fond of an increase for a product which is already heavily taxed.

"But, it's one of those things," he said. "I enjoy smoking so I'll pay whatever the difference is I guess."

If taxes keep increasing to the point where his brand of choice costs $15 a pack, Elliott said he'll call it quits.

Customer Peter Homer was not pleased to hear about the tax increase after purchasing a pack of Pall Mall's.

"I feel like [they're] holding us hostage" he said. "When you're addicted, I mean you have to go out and pay the price whatever they put up."

Smokers told CBC that they were unlikely to quit despite taxes going up. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

He added that he does not believe the higher tax will deter people from smoking.

"At $5 I said I was going to pack it in, at $10 I said I was going to pack it in," he said. "I have to pay them, you know, no matter what I guess."

On his smoke break outside Saint John's city market, Geoff Sargent said he had no idea the price was going up.

"That's nuts" he said, adding that he'd been trying to quit smoking for some time.

It's not the rising prices that bother him but the toll tobacco takes on his health, he said.

"I've got a ten-month-old son and I don't want him to grow up seeing his father as a smoker," he said.

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