First Nations Asking For More Tax-Free Smokes

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 13:31



A Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations vice-chief says he doesn’t want to see an increase in the amount of tax-free cigarettes bands can sell to their members.


The issue came up this week after a CBC Radio report indicated some bands were lobbying the provincial government to give them the right to sell five cartons of cigarettes a week to their members — up from the current limit of three cartons.


The report also said the FSIN was asking the province about the increase on the bands’ behalf, arguing it would generate profits on-reserve.


However, Morley Watson, the vice-chief responsible for economic development, says he hasn’t talked to anyone about upping the limit.


Watson says he doesn’t support the idea, and he doesn’t intend to lobby the government for any changes.


Watson also doesn’t think any exceptions should be made for urban reserves.


He believes other steps can be taken to generate income on reserves instead of increasing cigarette sales.


Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear the provincial government is willing to increase the amount of cigarettes First Nations can sell on-reserve.


A director with Saskatchewan Finance confirms some First Nations have been making that kind of request.


Mike Woods says the province is leery of upping the current rate of three cartons per person to five, because it has unearthed some cases where cigarettes were bought tax-free and then sold to non-Aboriginal customers.


Woods says the practice has been taking place on urban reserves and simply can’t be tolerated.


He notes Finance Minister Andrew Thomson would actually like to see the cigarette limit lowered, rather than raised.


Woods adds the Canadian Cancer Society and other groups are actively lobbying to get the smoking-rate on reserves decreased.