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

Semiahmoo students to raise awareness about acid throwing

The Grade 11 students are to host a fundraiser for victims

Maritimers bring taste of Atlantic Ocean to South Surrey

Maritime Seafoods owner says they cut out the middleman

VIDEO: Surrey Vaisakhi Parade floods Newton streets

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual event

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

VAISAKHI EXPLAINED: Founding of the Khalsa was a seminal event in Sikh history

There are five K’s – articles of faith – worn by baptized Sikhs

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

Police say ‘no major incidents’ at 4/20, Vancouver Park Board assessing

The first smoke-out held since legalization saw 60,000 people at Vancouver’s Sunset Beach

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Most Read