Vaping regulations are all about protecting tobacco tax revenues


The federal and provincial governments love the revenue that tobacco brings them, and will fight to protect it — even if it means higher rates of smoking and more deaths

It’s National Non-Smoking Week in Canada, which falls on the third week of January and is dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

January 2022 is also the month that Health Canada had hoped it would be able to implement a ban on flavoured vaping products — a proposal that will discourage smokers from switching to less-harmful products. But perhaps that’s exactly the point.

Nobody should be surprised that money and taxes has played a huge role in shaping the public health crusade to end smoking in Canada. The anti-smoking crusade was once about lowering cancer rates, making restaurants smell nicer and emptying the emphysema wards. Nicotine wasn’t the villain, carcinogens were.

In order to achieve these goals, governments started levying progressively more punitive taxes on nicotine addicts in the name of deterrence. And they ended up getting hooked on that revenue.

It isn’t coincidental that federal and provincial tobacco tax revenues remained mostly static for the last decade while the percentage of Canadian smokers drastically decreased, as higher taxes made up for revenue shortfalls caused by people quitting. Total revenue from provincial and federal tobacco taxes in Canada was roughly $7.5 billion last year, more than twice what the federal carbon tax generated in 2020.

Tax grabs are rarely levied without moral preening, so authorities shifted the goal posts of the anti-smoking crusade to include vaping because they want a piece of the pie. Carcinogens, which are produced by burning tobacco products and are absent in vape liquids, aren’t the target anymore; it is now nicotine, a substance more akin to caffeine than anything else.

Vaping carries a minuscule risk of lung injury, but nothing compared to the upwards of 20 per cent of smokers who develop cancer. Nevertheless, Canada’s provincial and federal governments do their best to convince everyone that vaping is a perilous vice that must be restricted, though not outlawed and rendered untaxable.

“Vapour flavoured products like strawberry and ice cream give young people the false impression that vaping is harmless when it is every bit as habit-forming as smoking,” said Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman last April. His comments reveal that the habit, not the health effects, is the new justification for heightened taxes.

Smokers switching to vaping has cut into provincial tobacco tax revenues in recent years, so British Columbia raised taxes on vape products in 2020, while Saskatchewan hiked its tax on vape products from six to 20 per cent the following year. Both provinces tried to justify the tax increases with the language of deterrence.

Last summer, Health Canada recommended a full federal ban on all flavoured vape products except mint, menthol and tobacco — an idea that was imported from the United States, which began cracking down on flavoured vape products in 2020.

The American flavour ban worked, as teenage vape use decreased . But a side effect was that the number of American cigarette smokers rose for the first time in 20 years. Those in Canada calling for new vaping restrictions are fully aware that their recommendations will drive up tobacco sales and cancer rates.

“The total profit loss to the vaping industry that also manufactures tobacco products may be mitigated by the substitution of tobacco purchases from dual users who would go back to smoking,” reads Health Canada’s 2021 report on the potential effects of a flavour ban. “They would choose to purchase more cigarettes, hence offsetting the loss of sales of tobacco- or mint/menthol-flavoured vaping products.”

This statement alone shows just how irresponsible the proposed regulations are.

Vapes enable all the benefits of nicotine, without the significant risk of cancer and other diseases that come with smoking.

Although some research has found chemicals that may cause cancer in some vaping products, they have not been shown to cause cancer. As Cancer Research UK states bluntly on its website , “There is no good evidence that vaping causes cancer.”

For its part, nicotine, while highly addictive, does have some positive benefits. Medical experts reluctantly admit it improves your mood and concentration, and anyone who’s tried it can confirm it’s the truth.

Switching from cigarettes to vapes got millions of people away from inhaling deadly carcinogens. So why are Canadian governments so keen on punishing vapers and the vaping industry with new taxes and regulations?

Probably because vapes are the biggest threat to tobacco tax revenues. Nicotine consumption will never be eradicated and the public health crusade dedicated to that will never succeed, partially because Ottawa and the provinces don’t want it to, as it makes them money.

The vaping industry has become very valuable, as well. People made fortunes from it, which means the taxman wants a cut. The federal and provincial governments love the revenue that tobacco brings them, and will fight to protect it — even if it means high rates of smoking and more deaths.

Read full article here.

Geoff Russ – National Post – 2022-01-22.

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