Convenience stores hope provocative Toronto billboards will raise local awareness about penalties and negative impact of illegal cigarettes
TORONTO, Aug. 16, 2012 /CNW/ - The Ontario Convenience Stores Association is taking its message about the fines people face, and the harm contraband cigarettes cause to communities and businesses to the streets with a new billboard campaign around Toronto. A total of 36 billboards are located in four Toronto neighbourhoods including East York, North York, Scarborough and Downtown Toronto.
Illegal cigarettes come in many forms and packages, including in pack formats and plastic baggies. Some are partially or untaxed, robbing the government of millions in tax revenue; and, many are illegally manufactured in Canada or smuggled into Canada from the United States. People caught with even one bag or pack of contraband cigarettes can be subject to fines from $500-$2,500.
"Governments have told us that education was a key tool in the war on illegal cigarettes. Our goal with these billboards is to educate the public and draw their attention to the fact that contraband tobacco is illegal and comes in many forms," said Dave Bryans, CEO, Ontario Convenience Stores Association. "Illegal tobacco not only harms small businesses in Toronto, it harms the community by bypassing the tough regulation and age-checks designed to prevent minors from getting access to tobacco."
As many as one-third of cigarettes smoked in Ontario are contraband and the RCMP indicates that profits from these sales are often being used by criminal organizations to finance other more serious activities. In fact, RCMP figures state that at least 175 organized crime groups are using contraband smuggling to fund other criminal enterprises such as drug and weapons trafficking. Ontario's Auditor General has added that contraband tobacco is costing Ontario over $500 million dollars a year in lost revenues.
The RCMP has said the contraband tobacco market is "a serious threat to public safety."
The OCSA is running two different billboard visuals in Toronto over the next month. One highlights the sophistication of the illegal tobacco industry by informing people that illegal cigarettes come in many forms, including traditional cigarette packaging and plastic bags. The second billboard highlights the fines people face if they purchase contraband tobacco.
Canadian convenience store retailers have been outspoken on the issue of contraband tobacco since 2005. Over the past several years, over 1,000 convenience stores have gone out of business, in large part due to the effects of the illegal contraband market on these law-abiding retailers. A clear plastic baggie of 200 illegal cigarettes costs as little as $10 while legitimate products are sold for $75 - $90 for one carton.
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) represents convenience stores throughout the province that are committed to Responsible Community Retailing. The OCSA membership comprises nearly 7,500 of the 11,000 convenience stores in Ontario. The convenience store industry represents $13 billion in sales annually in Ontario and employs over 69,000 people. More than 3 million people visit convenience stores in communities across Ontario every day.
Image with caption: "OCSA billboard educating Ontarians on the problem of contraband tobacco. (CNW Group/Ontario Convenience Stores Association)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120816_C7622_PHOTO_EN_16941.jpg
SOURCE: Ontario Convenience Stores AssociationFor further information:
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