Zero funding or commitment to tackle contraband cigarettes another missed opportunity for Ontario government
TORONTO, May 31 /CNW/ - Members of the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) were deeply disappointed that the Ontario government's World No Tobacco Day announcement does nothing to tackle the problem of kids getting cheap, easy access to tobacco through the smuggling rings that distribute nearly one of every two cigarettes in Ontario.
"The fact is there's nothing stopping kids, who shouldn't be smoking at all, from getting their hands on illegal cigarettes. And the Ontario government would like us to believe it's not a problem. I'm not sure what other conclusion to draw," said Gary Grant, spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco and 39 year veteran and retired Staff Superintendent of the Toronto Police Service. "The government does a great job working to keep legal cigarettes from kids, but it baffles me that they seem to have no will to stop those same kids from getting the far more easily accessible contraband cigarettes. It's no I.D. required, no questions asked!"
Grant added: "In our recent report card we gave the federal government an 'F' for doing practically nothing to keep contraband out of the hands of kids and you'd be hard pressed to give the McGuinty government anything but an 'F' as well.
A 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health study highlighted the detrimental effect contraband tobacco is having on youth smoking, as more and more teens bypass anti-smoking laws and regulations to access cheap tobacco sold by organized crime groups. It revealed that approximately 60,000 of all students surveyed reported smoking contraband cigarettes during the previous year. Furthermore, among youth smokers the study concluded over half (53.5%) had smoked contraband cigarettes.
The NCACT has proposed measures the provincial government could implement to stem this illegal trade including:
- Prevent the problem from worsening with the 8% HST price increase on
July 1 by temporarily locking-in existing high cigarette prices until
it takes action and reigns in the contraband cigarette problem
- Empower Ontario Provincial Police and Municipal police forces to lay
charges on smugglers and keep the proceeds
- Powers of seizure should be extended to anything that is used in the
manufacture, distribution or sale of contraband tobacco
- When a motor vehicle or boat is used to transport contraband tobacco
the mandatory penalty should include suspension of driver's license
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.
SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)
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