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Health groups want Alberta to raise tobacco tax to deter young people Dan Holinda, executive director of the Canadian Cancer Society in Alberta, said cigarettes are already too affordable in the province and the new increase in the minimum wage will make it even easier for young people to buy tobacco. "The minimum wage increase should be coupled with a tobacco tax increase to ensure that youth smoking rates don't rise," he said. "We are not opposed to the increase in the minimum wage but a corresponding tobacco tax increase is needed to ensure that tobacco doesn't become even more affordable." The coalition estimates such a tax hike on cigarettes and other tobacco products could generate $180 million the government could use for wellness programs. Alberta's minimum wage increased on Thursday to $11.20 per hour from $10.20. The government plans to raise the rate to $15 per hour by 2018. According to the Canadian Youth Smoking, Tobacco and Drug Survey, there are an estimated 39,000 tobacco users in grades 6 to 12 in Alberta. Alberta has the ninth lowest tax rate on cigarettes of the provinces and territories. Leigh Allard, president of the Lung Association of Alberta, said the province has fallen behind when it comes to tobacco taxes. "The Notley government has a huge opportunity to significantly reduce youth smoking with the most powerful weapon available - a tobacco tax increase," she said.