Letter: UCP vaping tax won’t slow black market or keep smokers from dying

Show me a single historical example of when applying a tax to a legitimate market had a restrictive effect upon a parallel black market.

While I am waiting, let’s talk about the UCP government’s plan to reward Alberta smokers who after being hounded, shunned, ostracized, and belittled for well over two decades, stumbled upon vaping, and finally did what governments, health bodies, and their busy body neighbors had been demanding.

They quit smoking cigarettes. Their reward for quitting will be to pay a 20% tax on the product they found worked for them. They will pay this tax “for the sake of Alberta’s children” who are dabbling in vaping and being exposed to nicotine at a (national) rate of roughly 20% (Past 30 day use).

It doesn’t matter that during the campaign, the UCP government stated to CBC “We do not intend to introduce new taxes on products that are already illegal for minors to obtain”.

(https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-vaping-products-tax-1.5076279)

Les Hagen of Action On Smoking and Health, for all of his cries of “Think of the children”, actually could care less about their well being beyond being a flag to wave in his ideological war against smoking which has, in fact, become an ideological war against smokers. If he did he might have mentioned the student drinking rate from the same report (Summary of results Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Survey 2018-19) – 44%, or the 23% who reported high risk (binge) drinking behavior. He might be concerned with those smoking cannabis – 18%, or those who reported using both liquor and cannabis together at the same time – 12%.

The “Body Parts” organizations (heart, lung, cancer, etc), who one would expect to be pro-harm reduction, are similarly not that focussed on students at risk. If they were they would perhaps be talking about the numbers of students deliberately and wilfully abusing pharmaceuticals. Pain Relievers 3% – 68,000 students. Oxycodone – 25,000 students. Fentanyl (yes, fentanyl) – 14,000 students. Stimulants – 91,000, and sedatives – 44,000.

Nope, not a peep… but they did make a pretty slick advertisement involving toddlers, an ice cream truck, and nicotine though.

Perhaps our Chief Medical Officer of Health – Deena Hinshaw, who at the beginning of the year, with a slight grin, advised all Albertans to “not vape” in response to “Vaping Related Illness” (which has been identified as a problem largely present in the U.S. black market cannabis industry), should instead be asking “What is impacting our Canadian youth in such a manner that 126,000 of them feel the need to abuse cough syrup to get high, and 101,000 of them are taking Gravol with the express purpose of getting high?

To be clear, the North American mortality rate of EVALI, for its entire run, was about 60 deaths. Statistically, smoking killed more Canadians before noon on January 1st of 2020. Apparently no one gives a [expletive deleted]. Including Les Hagen, The “Body Parts” orgs, or the CMO.

Sixty-five percent of youth who dabble in vaping access their product through social sources. This is by definition Grey/Black market access. Taxing former smokers will not change this.

It will, however, make that 44-year-old single mother who’s working two jobs think long and hard about whether she tries vaping instead of smoking though. Smokers are used to interventions being unsuccessful, and therefore on a tight budget will often stick with “the devil they know”. The National Bureau of Economic Research has been studying vaping taxes in the U.S. and their model simulated that “for every one standard e-cigarette pod (a device that contains liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes) of 0.7 ml no longer purchased as a result of an e-cigarette tax, the same tax increases traditional cigarettes purchased by 6.2 extra packs.”

That’s good if you are a government that makes 55 dollars off of every carton sold, such as the provincial government.

It’s also good for those seeking grant money to lobby those that they receive grant money from.

Just don’t be fooled about thinking it’s about the kids. It’s not about the kids and it never was. Any more than it was ever about helping Canadian smokers.

The kids are not alright, and the smokers are still dying.

Seven thousand and seven hundred of them between January 1st and the time I hit send on this letter to the editor.

Thomas Kirsop sits on the Board of Directors for the Vaping Industry Trade Association (VITA) of Canada, and is the CEO of Alternatives & Options – Vapourizers and E-Liquids Ltd. in Morinville and St. Albert.

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