Conservatives Talk Tobacco Control But Slash Program

In the August 2012 issue of Tobacco Info, Geoffrey Lansdell reports on the Conservative government's decision to slash its tobacco control budget by $15 million this year: "Over the last six years, the government's tobacco control budget has dropped by $40 million, from $68 million in 2006 to $28 million for the 2012 fiscal year."

This cut came on the heels of record tobacco tax revenues of $3 billion.  The current tobacco control budget thus represents less than 1% of tax revenues collected from Canadian smokers. Put another way, From January 1 to January 3, cigarette taxes contribute toward federal tobacco control programs.  For the remainder of the year, Harper's government does whatever it wants with this cash grab.

The US Centers for Disease Control recommend that governments should spend $6 per capita to sustain a comprehensive tobacco control program.  The $28 million in federal funding represents just 81 cents per capita.

The cuts were roundly criticized by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Non-Smokers Rights Association, the Ottawa Heart Institute, the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, and on and on.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq described the cuts as a refocusing of the program on populations with higher smoking rates, in particular aboriginal populations.  What is doubly tragic about this statement is that the Minister, an aboriginal Canadian herself, is presiding over a reinstatement of the First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Strategy with only $5 million in annual funding, half the level of funding for the program that was suspended shortly after the Conservatives took office in 2006.