Anyone that’s driven near an Indian reserve has seen them – roadside smoke shops selling cheap cigarettes. Or as the kids call them, ‘rutts’ (as in ciga-rutts).
Cigarettes in Canada are regulated and taxed heavily. And that’s probably how it should be. This type of tax is called a sin tax, and it’s an avoidable user tax. Don’t want to pay the tax, don’t smoke. Yes, I understand that’s simplistic, but what should we tax? Clearly a tax on cigarettes that people can quit is better than a tax on food. It’s not like eating is a bad habit we’re encouraging Canadians to break.
So the natives I believe don’t pay taxes on this stuff. They can grow and pack their own cigarettes and smoke away, all without the excessive tobacco taxes. Their ability to do this for their own benefit is well established in Canada and speaks to government issues much deeper and more complicated than whether they have to pay taxes on a carton of smokes – it’s almost irrelevant.
No, the question is, should they be allowed to make a living or profit from selling those same tax-free smokes to non-natives? Don’t Canadians have to pay taxes on their cigarettes? Of course they do.
When Canadians choose to avoid taxes and buy cheap rutts or a $12 bag-o-smokes, you’re breaking the law. Here’s an example: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/on/news-nouvelles/2012/12-04-18-cornwall-eng.htm
To be clear, natives can sell the tobacco tax free – that’s perfectly legal. Canadians however, cannot purchase it. Despite the fact that these road side stands are everywhere and it’s blatant, it’s still against the law.
Yes, perhaps taxes are too high on cigarettes. But there’s a reason we should enforce this, ensuring that Canadians are not buying tax-free tobacco. It’s as simple as this – if you want to enjoy the benefits of Canadian society, you have to pay your taxes. By avoiding them, you are freeloading on the rest of society.
Who’s paving the roads? People paid for with taxes. Who’s paying for your health care when you get lung cancer? That’s taxes again. How is it any kind of right to avoid taxes with one hand and then take advantage of the benefits those taxes offer Canadians? It’s not just legally wrong for Canadians to buy cheap rutts, it’s morally wrong. And don’t put this responsibility on the natives – they’re well within their well-defined rights to sell tax-free tobacco, and it’s certainly not their responsibility to police what you do. That’s Canadians responsibiity – and we should be enforcing it. So why aren’t we?