Illegal cigarette use by teens jumps to all-time highs in Ontario & Quebec;
2009 Toronto results at their highest

    
    -   Full study of cigarette butts found around high schools in Ontario
        and Quebec released

    -   Teen contraband use at 30% in Ontario and 45% in Quebec - highest
        numbers since study began; A jump of 4% in Ontario and 9% in Quebec
        over similar data from 2008

    -   Toronto results at their highest - 7% increase in 2009 to 23%

    -   Renewed call to mirror existing ban on youth alcohol possession for
        tobacco products
    

TORONTO, Oct. 14 /CNW/ - A new, broader study of youth access to contraband tobacco shows that teen use of illegal cigarettes is now the highest since analysis of cigarette butts found around high schools began in 2007. In 2009, 30% of cigarette butts collected from around Ontario high schools and 45% of those collected at Quebec high schools were found to be contraband tobacco - A jump of 4% in Ontario and 9% in Quebec over similar data from 2008.

The study, commissioned by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association and the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT), paints an increasingly dark picture in Canada where youth, who shouldn't have any access to tobacco products, are being served by a black market in tobacco. Contraband cigarettes are cheap, easy to get and being smuggled and sold throughout Canada in record numbers, while quietly undermining government anti-smoking programs.

"Kids, who shouldn't be smoking at all, are having no trouble getting their hands on illegal cigarettes. The study makes it clear that teens are increasingly the target of the criminal thugs at the end of the contraband tobacco distribution chain," said Gary Grant, spokesperson for the NCACT and retired Staff Superintendent of the Toronto Police Service.

"It's a message we've taken to many cities in Ontario this fall in the hope of raising awareness among parents and politicians that efforts to keep kids from smoking are being put at serious risk. The tragedy here is that contraband tobacco is short-circuiting government's anti-smoking efforts - tobacco tax policy, health warnings, display bans, mandatory ID checks, government anti-smoking initiatives - are all going up in smoke because of the wide availability of illegal cigarettes."

Ontario & Quebec results at their highest

Across Ontario, 19,770 cigarette butts were collected from around 110 high schools and analysis revealed 30% were illegal. In Quebec, 14,064 cigarette butts were collected from around 75 high schools and 45% were identified as illegal. These are the highest numbers recorded since this study was first conducted in 2007 and represent a jump of 4% in Ontario and 9% in Quebec over similar data in 2008.

Toronto reaches new high for city

In Toronto, researchers visited 17 schools and collected 2,563 cigarette butts. Inspection revealed that 23% were contraband tobacco. These figures are the highest seen in Toronto and mark a 7% increase over 2008.

"Government needs to take meaningful action now to address this problem," added Grant. "We think banning youth possession of all tobacco is a good start. If it's illegal for someone under 19 to have a beer, the same or stricter rules should apply for cigarettes - it's just common sense. It's not going to solve the problem of contraband tobacco by itself, but it will give parents, educators and police a tool to help teens, who appear to be particularly at risk."

For example, in Ontario, you must be 19 to buy or drink alcohol. Underage drinking is a provincial offense and minors caught drinking alcohol face a fine of $130 in a pub or club and $75 in residences.

The NCACT's 2009 Youth Contraband Study was conducted by an independent research company, Arcus Research, which visited 185 high schools in Ontario and Quebec to collect cigarette butts from public grounds outside school property. Collections were done by experienced research personnel during after-school hours. Cigarette butts were collected, examined and classified in three categories: legal, contraband or unknown.

Contraband cigarettes are often made in illegal, unregulated factories and sold to kids out of the trunks of cars. RCMP officials note the vast majority of contraband cigarettes are smuggled illegally into Canada through the Akwesasne reserve, which straddles the US/Canada border near Cornwall, Ontario. They are priced cheaply, often selling for $1.00 for a pack of 20 cigarettes as compared to $8.00 for government taxed cigarettes.

    
    Selected Ontario Results
    -----------------------------------------------
    City            % Contraband   change vs. 2008
    -----------------------------------------------
    Aurora                   42%               -3%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Brampton                 38%               +6%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Brantford                37%               +1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Hamilton                 19%               +1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Kitchener                23%               N/A
    -----------------------------------------------
    London                   20%               N/A
    -----------------------------------------------
    Markham                  27%               +1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Mississauga              43%               -1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Newmarket                48%               +1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Oshawa                   40%               +4%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Ottawa                   23%                0%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Toronto                  23%               +7%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Thornhill                20%               -1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Windsor                  34%               +4%
    -----------------------------------------------

    Selected Quebec Results
    -----------------------------------------------
    City            % Contraband   change vs. 2008
    -----------------------------------------------
    Alma                     43%              +11%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Chateaugay               83%               -3%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Drummondville            32%               +3%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Gatineau                 27%               +1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Jonquière                37%               -7%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Laval                    52%               +1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Montréal Area            41%               +6%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Quebec City              37%               +5%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Saguenay                 46%               +8%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Sherbrooke               32%               +1%
    -----------------------------------------------
    St-Hyacinthe             32%               -2%
    -----------------------------------------------
    Trois-Rivières           29%               +2%
    -----------------------------------------------
    

SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)

For further information: For further information: Media inquiries: John Perenack, perenack@room-40.com (quick response), (416) 238-2576


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