E-cigarette taxation not on agenda yet, province says

E-cigarette taxation not on agenda yet, province says

The Manitoba government has no immediate plans to treat electronic cigarettes like tobacco despite seeing $9.3 million less in tobacco taxes this year than earlier budgeted.

Finance Minister Greg Dewar said he hasn't talked with his department about taxing e-cigarettes, which are becoming increasingly popular as a way to quit smoking.

"There's been no decision made on taxing at this point," he said. "We haven't discussed those matters yet."

The government has said while it acknowledges the increased use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, it intends to work with the federal government on a co-ordinated approach to the issue.

"We will continue to monitor and assess developments, including recently proposed legislation in other provinces, in order to determine what government response may be appropriate," cabinet spokeswoman Naline Rampersad said.

Revenue amounts from this fiscal year's tobacco taxes were released Friday in the province's second-quarter report ending Sept. 30. The province has collected $140,571,000, down from the $149,943,000 it had estimated, based on the prior year.

The province attributes part of the dip to smuggled, contraband cigarettes. But the wider availability of e-cigarettes is also having an impact, although it is impossible to measure since the industry is not regulated.

An e-cigarette is a battery-operated (rechargeable) plastic or metal tube to heat and vapourize a flavoured nicotine-containing solution or "juice" so the user can inhale it, delivering a dose of nicotine without the actual smoke of a cigarette.

The Electronic Cigarette Trade Association (ECTA) of Canada says only Nova Scotia has so far passed legislation to place e-cigarettes under that province's existing tobacco regulations. Ontario, B.C. and Alberta are considering similar legislation, including restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. In Ottawa, the federal standing committee on health is studying the issue to make recommendations regarding the classification and regulation of these products.

ECTA spokeswoman Kate Ackerman said the provinces, including Manitoba, should wait for the federal process to finish before rushing to impose tobacco restrictions on e-cigarettes.

By treating electronic cigarettes like tobacco, she said in an email, it could potentially drive the products underground.