Health Experts Call For Increase In Cigarette Taxes

November 24, 1998

Ontario's cheap cigarettes undermine a provincial strategy to control the smoking epidemic, says a report from the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit.

"There is solid evidence that increasing the price of cigarettes reduces cigarette consumption," says Roberta Ferrence, director of the unit, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and a professor in U of T's public health sciences department. Raising cigarette taxes would be a strong deterrent for youth who are more affected by increased prices than adults. "They're too young to experience most of the major health effects that occur in older smokers and don't have the same incentive to quit."

Ontario has the lowest-priced cigarettes of any province in Canada or bordering U.S. states, says the Ontario Tobacco Strategy: Progress Toward Our Goals 1997/1998, a report written by Ferrence and five researchers. The price for a large pack ranges from $3.95 in Ontario to $7.34 in Newfoundland. An increase of 25 per cent ($1 per pack) would bring Ontario prices close to those in New York State, Ferrence says. The price, she adds, would still be lower than the average in other provinces.

Ontario used to be the national leader in initiatives to reduce smoking, Ferrence says. However, in the past four years the province has fallen behind. Since the early 1990s, smoking has increased among Ontario's youth and declining rates of adult smokers have levelled off. "Research suggests a synergy results when several different strategies are implemented at the same time," she says. "Since a key tactic to reduce smoking -- increasing the price of cigarettes -- has not been implemented, the overall effectiveness of our efforts is being compromised."

Smoking is estimated to cost the provincial government over $ 3.7 billion annually, including more than $1 billion in health care costs and $2.6 billion in loss of productivity due to premature death and disability. Almost 12,000 people die each year in Ontario from smoking-related diseases.
-end-
The research unit, a network funded by the provincial Ministry of Health, is part of U of T's Centre for Health Promotion. This report is the fourth in an annual series monitoring progress toward the objectives of the Ontario Tobacco Strategy. Other report authors are Dr. Thomas Stephens of Thomas Stephens & Associates, Dr. Thomas Abernathy of the Central West Health Planning Information Network, Dr. Mary Jane Ashley of U of T, Dr. Stephen Brown of the University of Waterloo and Dr. William Pickett of Queen's University.

CONTACT:
Professor Roberta Ferrence, department of public health sciences, 416-595-6889, e-mail: roberta.ferrence@utoronto.ca,
Dr. Thomas Stephens, 613-692-6092, e-mail: tstephens@cyberus.ca
or Christina Marshall, U of T public affairs, 416-978-5949, e-mail:christina.marshall@utoronto.ca



University of Toronto

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