The province of Alberta appears to be on the cusp of reneging on a previous statement in which it assured Alberta vapers that vaping products will not be taxed. Its new position may see it apply an excise tax to the product category as soon as 2020, according to the Vaping Industry Trade Association via Newswire.
According to Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, the purpose of taxing vapor products in Alberta is all too familiar: to protect the children. Hagen claims that there has been an increase in underage smoking in the province, and insists that underage vaping is to blame:
“We’re very concerned that the two are linked and that the high rates of vaping that we’re now seeing among youth is translating into higher rates of smoking.”
Considering the fact that the minimum legal vaping age in Alberta is set at 18, minimum age enforcement seems the more logical and effective strategy for deterring underage vaping while minimizing the impact felt by adult vapers who are breaking no laws.
Hagen’s perspective differs:
“Tobacco taxes are one of the most effective means of reducing and preventing tobacco use, particularly among kids, because kids have a limited amount of disposable income.”
This is also true of a segment of the adult population. According to reporting by The Washington Post, at least in the United States, the closer a smoker is to the poverty line, the more likely he or she is to continue to smoke. Taxing vapor products, particularly the kind of closed system vapor products which receive the highest visibility from those who have not yet switched to vaping, is as likely to keep them out of the hands of adult smokers as the hands of minors, who can’t legally buy these products in any case. And those are precisely the products Hagen is most intent on taxing:
“If there is an argument to be made for a tax on vaping products, I think you would start with the high nicotine products first, particularly those that are aimed at young people.”
While Hagen doesn’t substantiate his statement that these products are, in fact, aimed at young people, their manufacturers insist that these products are, instead, aimed at current smokers.
CBC reached out to Alberta’s three major political parties for their perspective on the possible excise tax:
UCP responded, saying:
“We do not intend to introduce new taxes on products that are already illegal for minors to obtain.”
Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel answered:
“I think anything that could be dangerous to children or anybody needs to be properly identified and it needs to be properly dealt with. If you don’t tax something, you’re sending a tacit approval for it. So I think it should be taxed.”
The NDP’s emailed reply was more ambiguous than the other two responses, saying that Alberta’s government is already reviewing federal regulations, “and identifying gaps that may require provincial laws to protect children and ensure vaping products are available, in a safe way, for adults in Alberta.”