Smokers should continue to pay plenty in taxes on tobacco

Premier kills idea of MSP surcharge on smokers

Clark opposes de Jong proposal to tinker with premiums

Premier Christy Clark has blocked Health Minister Mike de Jong’s idea of charging smokers higher MSP premiums to reflect the extra burden they put on B.C. health care system.

“I don’t support it,” the premier said Friday, two days after de Jong told Black Press he was “seriously looking” at the idea.

Clark said it’s a slippery slope to start charging higher MSP premiums based on people’s personal behaviour.

“People pay more taxes because they pay taxes on cigarettes,” Clark said.

She added that if the government needs to raise more revenue from smokers, it should raise taxes on tobacco.

B.C. is already getting more revenue from tobacco since July 2010 when the harmonized sales tax took effect, increasing the price by seven per cent because the provincial sales tax did not apply to tobacco here.

Reverting back to the GST/PST system would mean tobacco taxes go back down unless B.C. opts to raise its separate tax on tobacco.

De Jong raised the notion of an MSP surcharge on smokers in a panel discussion at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

He gave no details, calling it a concept under exploration.

“I think smokers would be upset to be singled out,” de Jong said. “But we want them to be upset because they are engaged in a behaviour that is costing the rest of society billions of dollars.

De Jong raised the issue as he outlined government plans to carve money out of existing health spending to fund new initiatives to prevent chronic illness and reduce long-term costs.

B.C. already spends nearly $100 million a year on health promotion and disease prevention.

Victoria’s latest move is to fully fund nicotine patches and other smoking cessation aids.

Smokers will no longer have the excuse of not being able to afford to pay for help to quit smoking, de Jong said, adding the $15 million required will come from other parts of the health budget.

More than 300 people signed up in the first hours as the new program launched Friday.

Smokers make up just 14 per cent of the B.C. population – the lowest rate in Canada – but de Jong said cutting that to 12 or 10 per cent would still save billions of dollars.

He said there’s no new money to fund disease prevention initiatives, so cash much come from other health spending, adding that may mean difficult decisions ahead.

B.C.’s health budget has climbed from $4.8 billion in 1990, when it made up 32 per cent of all government spending, to $16 billion now or 45 per cent.

“We keep plundering other budgets to feed an insatiable appetite in health care,” de Jong said. “We are going to have to live within our means in health care and actually shift the emphasis.”

Just Posted

Annual Nk’maplqs Challenge Cup returns easter weekend

The goal of the Vernon-based event is to revitalize the game and the tradition of an all-native hockey tournament in the Interior.

Peeling away: OK strip clubs disappearing

Hear from Penticton’s only strip club owner about their success in a dying industry

Schnare’s Massive Egg Hunt returns

The annual egg hunt takes place Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. - noon at 659 Commonage Road in Vernon.

Vernon-raised BC Was Awesome producer returns home for filming of episode

The topic of this Vernon-featured episode has not yet been revealed.

DJ to showcase electronic music in Vernon

“Vernon basically has no EDM scene going strong at the moment. My mission is to change that.”

FOODIE FRIDAY: Brodo Kitchen makes special poutine

Brodo Kitchen features homemade comfort food and a spin on Gnocchi, transformed into poutine

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Traffic flagger ‘pushed’ by vehicle in Osoyoos on April 18

Aimee Attig is looking for witnesses of the incident that took place on Highway 3 near the AG Foods

Shuswap dancer stays across street from Penticton shooting day after Salmon Arm tragedy

Dancers come for festival, put in lockdown in rec centre, watch police response from Airbnb window

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

COLUMN: Bunnies, sexuality and the freedom to read

A book about a gay bunny has been the subject of challenges

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Storytelling preserves Secwepemc culture, history in Shuswap

Neskonlith councillor Louis Thomas to share his craft at Word on the Lake Writers’ Fest in Salmon Arm

Most Read