Canadian tobacco manufacturers, fed up with crushing taxes that have pushed the cost of a pack of cigarettes to $7 or more, are urging the country's smokers to revolt.
The Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers' Council has begun a $2 million write-in protest campaign aimed at Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Parliament. Council officials hope to flood lawmakers with 50 million protest postcards that can be mailed free as government correspondence.The federal budget approved in February raised so-called sin taxes, and several provinces followed suit.
British Columbia, for example, raised the provincial tax by 34 cents. Taxes on a pack of cigarettes there now total $2.79, compared with 66 cents across the border in Washington state.
Cigarettes are up to six times cheaper in the United States.
A federal Health and Welfare Ministry study says there are 6.4 million smokers in this country of 26 million residents.
"Somewhat different from the prevailing attitude in the United States, smokers in Canada have been quite passive in recent years, and these governments feel they can nail them with impunity," William Neville, president of the tobacco council, said in an interview Wednesday.
A Canadian who smokes 20 cigarettes a day pays an average of $1,300 in tobacco taxes annually.