Governments must follow through on commitments to toughen penalties
OTTAWA, Jan. 20, 2012 /CNW/ - During National Non-Smoking Week, the
National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) is underlining
how easy access to illegal cigarettes undermines every one of Canada's
tobacco control measures.
"Governments across Canada have gone to great lengths to control access
to tobacco, including stringent ID and display requirements," said Gary
Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police service and spokesperson
for the NCACT. "Sadly, contraband tobacco's ready availability and low
price undermine these efforts."
Illegal cigarettes are readily available throughout Canada. Normally
sold in clear resealable plastic bags, a "baggie" of 200 can cost as
much as $70 less than legal product. Contraband tobacco is distributed
through more than 300 smoke shacks that are located near major Canadian
cities, as well as directly to consumers through a drug-dealer system.
Contraband dealers don't check for ID, which makes illegal cigarettes a
prime source for youth smoking. This was reinforced by the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health, which found that contraband tobacco's easy
availability is one of the reasons why Ontario's youth smoking rates
have remained relatively high.
"It is troubling that the illegal market offers young people such easy
access to tobacco. It's similarly disconcerting that it also puts cash
into the coffers of some of Canada's least desirable elements,"
continued Grant. "By the RCMP's estimates, more than 175 criminal gangs
use illegal cigarettes to finance their other activities, including
guns, drugs and human smuggling,"
During the last federal election, the Conservatives committed to
introducing legislation that would create mandatory minimum sentences
for contraband smuggling, as well as a new RCMP taskforce to deal with
contraband tobacco issues. The Prime Minister reinforced this
commitment in his statement kicking off National Non-Smoking Week.
Similarly, during Ontario's provincial election the Liberals committed
to continuing the fight against contraband.
"Implementation of tougher anti-contraband measures by the federal and
provincial governments is critical to the success of Canada's
stop-smoking initiatives," concluded Grant. "As long as 200 illegal
cigarettes cost less than going to the movies and are so easily
accessible to Canada's youth, governments must follow through on their
commitments and make combating illegal cigarettes a priority."
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
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, The Customs & Immigration Union (CIU), the Ontario Chamber
of Commerce, and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco
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