National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco shocked McGuinty Government kills anti-contraband tobacco legislation

TORONTO, March 4 /CNW/ - Companies and organizations allied in their concern about the organized crime-driven trade in contraband tobacco were shocked to hear Ontario Minister of Revenue Sophia Aggelonitis reveal that the McGuinty Government has decided not to introduce anti-contraband tobacco legislation in Ontario.  In recent years Ontario has had the highest incidence of contraband tobacco in Canada and has lost as much as a half a billion dollars per year in uncollected tobocco taxes as a result.

"We gave the McGuinty government a grade of 'F' for their response to contraband tobacco in 2010, but after hearing that Ontario isn't prepared to introduce comprehensive anti-contraband tobacco legislation, we're at a loss to understand the government's lack of will to take tough action on this problem," said Gary Grant, Spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco.  "We're talking about a situation where 175 organized crime groups are smuggling illegal cigarettes, drugs and guns into this province and the McGuinty government is unwilling to act.  It's really bewildering the government seems to be so out of touch with the reality of the situation."

Despite the complexity of the problem, other provincial government's have passed legislation to fight contraband tobacco.  In particular, Quebec's Bill 59 increased penalties and enforcement powers, something the province of Ontario could easily replicate. 

"We've seen independent studies, most recently by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, demonstrate that youth are getting easy access to cigarettes because contraband cigarettes are cheap and easily available," added Grant. "The October 2010 CAMH study revealed that contraband tobacco accounts for 43% of all cigarettes consumed by Ontario high school daily smokers in grades 9 to 12. The McGuinty government talks about wanting to keep kids from smoking, but seems prepared to stand by while criminal organizations profit by targeting our kids."

National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco continues to ask Ontario take immediate action and enact a number of important measures that can help:

  1. Fully empower Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and municipal police officers to have the ability to search and seize contraband tobacco shipments.  Currently OPP officers need authorization from the RCMP or Ministry of Revenue before they can act.
  2. Allow municipal police forces to retain the proceeds from seized equipment, property and vehicles to fund local law enforcement.
  3. Empower local municipalities to institute penal proceedings under the Tobacco Tax Act.
  4. Introduce measures to better control the sale of raw leaf tobacco.
  5. Encourage Ontario's 36 Public Health Units and their governing Boards of Health to make education about contraband tobacco a priority.
  6. Commit the Government of Ontario to a public education campaign, particularly one directed at youth, to warn them not only about smoking, but the illegality of contraband tobacco as well.
  7. Stiffen penalties under the Tobacco Tax Act to include more serious criminal charges in addition to the fines that are currently levied for smuggling illegal tobacco.

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:

Media inquiries:

John Perenack, perenack@primestrat.com, 416-238-2576

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National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco

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