L’auteur examine les produits alternatifs à la nicotine ainsi qu’aux différents produits du tabac et propose que les taux d’imposition des produits individuels reflètent leurs dommages potentiels pour la santé. Les taux d’imposition devraient refléter notre meilleure compréhension des risques pour la santé associés à chaque produit à base de nicotine ou de tabac. Un ensemble de taxes bien structuré devrait viser à encourager les fumeurs à cesser de fumer ou à passer à des produits à risque réduit, mais ne pas être trop élevé pour stimuler le marché illégal.
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A growing segment of the nicotine consumption market in Canada comes from so-called alternative nicotine delivery systems (ANDS). This class includes electronic-cigarettes (e-cigs), heated tobacco sticks and oral tobacco products. Canada has no comprehensive taxation system for these products at present.
A critical feature of tobacco use is that morbidity and mortality spring primarily from the combustion process associated with traditional cigarettes (c-cigs). Nicotine, a chemical found in tobacco, is addictive and may not be safe in extreme doses but it, by itself, is not the source of harm from tobacco/smoking. As a result, policymakers must take this into account when considering tax rates for nicotine/tobacco-based products.
The harm-reduction approach taken in this Commentary recognizes that cigarettes kill and that if alternative nicotine systems are known with certainty to contain a small fraction of the toxins in cigarettes, this is sufficient to attempt to divert users away from the killer products toward the lower-risk ones, even with uncertainty surrounding the lifecycle health impacts of the latter.
Today, nicotine can be consumed in a form that is greatly less toxic than heretofore. We do not know the precise consequences of using each one of these new products over a protracted time period, despite knowing that their toxicity levels are one or two orders of magnitude less than combustible cigarettes. The central theme of this Commentary is that taxation of nicotine and tobacco products should reflect the risks associated with their use rather
than the quantity of tobacco contained in them.
A harm-reduction approach suggests that society may tolerate the consumption of even substantial nicotine volumes if that consumption has modest rather than severe health consequences. The model here is Sweden where tobacco-related illnesses are a small fraction of the average levels experienced in the rest of Europe.
Since the consumption of nicotine is habit forming, in some cases to the point of addiction, and can have adverse effects, particularly on youth, its use should be taxed beyond the basic sales-tax rate, even if its delivery is separated from combustible tobacco.
My calculations suggest that, in addition to the standard harmonized sales tax, or the combined provincial sales tax and goods and services tax, the specific rates on products at the low-risk end of the spectrum should be in the neighborhood of 5 percent to 10 percent of the rate applicable to regular cigarettes.
At the top end of the spectrum, so-called very low nicotine cigarettes (VLNCs) should carry a tax rate below that on c-cigs, and the discount should be sufficient to indicate that VLNCs are slightly less risky than traditional c-cigs. Governments may also choose to tax at a higher rate if concerned about oligopolistic pricing behavior in some segments of the ANDS markets.