Contraband Tobacco's Influence Spreading

Recent seizures emphasize the national scope of the problem

OTTAWA, Nov. 4, 2011 /CNW/ - Recent seizures of truckloads of illegal cigarettes in British Columbia and Nova Scotia emphasize that the problem of illegal tobacco is spreading throughout the country, says the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT). Tuesday, the RCMP announced that they had broken up a smuggling ring in the greater Vancouver area, seizing nearly 600,000 cartons of illegal cigarettes. Wednesday in Cape Breton, on Canada's other coast, the RCMP announced that they had seized almost a million illegal cigarettes.

"This is dramatic evidence that the problem of illegal tobacco is spreading nationally," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police service and current spokesperson for the NCACT. "Too often we think of contraband tobacco as a problem predominantly limited to Ontario and Quebec, but these seizures are a stark reminder that the criminals that operate the illegal tobacco trade are spreading their influence."

Illegal cigarettes cause a number of associated problems. At the RCMP's last count, the contraband tobacco trade was used by more than 175 criminal gangs to finance their other illegal activities, including guns, drugs, and human smuggling. They also make a mockery of Canada's tobacco control regulations. They are often sold in clear plastic "baggies" that carry none of the government's health warnings. Their low price - a baggie of 200 illegal smokes can cost less than the price of a movie ticket, up to $70 less than legal product - makes them particularly attractive to youth.

"Busts are always good news, but these reveal a new level of sophistication from the contraband gangs, with police seizures including very elaborate counterfeits of legitimate products," said Grant. "More advanced contraband is a direct result of government not taking enough action to curb this problem."

During the federal election, the government committed to creating a new RCMP taskforce dedicated to contraband tobacco, as well as creating a new offence for contraband smuggling. The NCACT hopes that the government will move forward on these in the very near future.

"The influence of contraband tobacco is spreading, and the gangs it funds are getting stronger," concluded Grant. "We cannot let this trend continue; government must take real action now."

About NCACT

The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is a Canadian advocacy group formed with the participation of businesses, organizations and individuals concerned about the growing danger of contraband cigarettes.  NCACT members share the goals of working together to educate people and urge government to take quick action to stop this growing threat.

The members of the NCACT include: Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), Retail Council of Canada, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, National Convenience Stores Distributors Association (NACDA), Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Frontier Duty Free Association, Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers, Fédération des Chambres de Commerce du Québec (FCCQ), Conseil du Patronat du Québec (CPQ), l'Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ), Toronto Crime Stoppers, National Citizen's coalition, and The Customs & Immigration Union (CIU).

SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco

For further information:

Michael Powell
(p) 1-866-950-5551
(m) 613-797-7313
(e) info@stopcontrabandtobacco.ca

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National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco

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