Cancer Society applauds cigarette tax hike in Yukon

It's the only tax hike in this year's Yukon budget and it's a good one, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Smokers in the territory will be paying more to get their nicotine fix, starting in July. The tax on each cigarette or gram of loose tobacco will go from 21 cents to 25 cents — that's a hike of $8 on a carton of 200 cigarettes.

Next April, it will go up again, to 30 cents per cigarette or gram, representing an $18 hike on today's price of a carton (which is about $110 to $115 in Yukon).

The tobacco tax will then increase by the consumer price index, each January 1, starting in 2019.

"This budget's going to save lives," said Rob Cunningham, of the Canadian Cancer Society.

"There has been extensive research that as you increase taxes, smoking goes down. This is supported by the World Health Organization, by the World Bank, and by researchers in many countries."

'Playing catch-up'

Cunningham says tax hikes are especially effective in reducing youth smoking rates, as young people typically have less disposable income to spend on smokes.

Cunningham says it's the first increase to Yukon's tobacco tax in nine years, so "this budget's really playing catch-up."

The hike will bring Yukon's tobacco tax rate in line with the other territories — Nunavummiut pay 30 cents per cigarette in tax, and people in the N.W.T. pay between 30 and 31 cents, Cunningham said.

Yukon's smoking rate is still one of the highest in Canada. Slightly more than a quarter of all Yukoners smoke, compared to about 17.7 per cent of Canadians.