National groups call on federal government to take action on contraband tobacco



    CCSA hosts forum in Ottawa to discuss crisis of cheap and widely
    available illegal tobacco

    OTTAWA, Nov. 2 /CNW/ - The sale of illegal cigarettes is silently but
quickly menacing many sectors of Canadian society, participants at a landmark
forum on illegal tobacco sales heard today.
    Hosted by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), this
national forum brought together participants from a diverse set of groups that
included tobacco manufacturers, law enforcement, First Nations, government
officials, educators and retailers, in Ottawa to say "No to the Illegal Sale
of Tobacco Products" and to discuss the critical business and societal
problems posed by contraband tobacco.
    "Contraband tobacco is spiralling out of control and we need all levels
of government to take a leadership role and put the brakes on this problem,"
said Dave Bryans, president of the CCSA. "We've brought a lot of different
people and groups together to talk about the extent of the problem and what
can be done to stop it - but it's a complicated issue with no single or easy
solution."
    The Forum offered retailers and other groups with front-line experience
with the problem of contraband tobacco an opportunity to exchange ideas and
discuss the extent of its spread in Canada. Research presented at the forum
shows that nearly one in three cigarettes purchased in Ontario (31.5%) and
Quebec (30.5%) are illegal. Nationally, 22% of tobacco products purchased have
been determined to be contraband.
    The same research also shows a disturbing growth in illegal tobacco
purchases over last year. The growth is being fuelled by low prices ($18 per
illicit carton vs. $50 - $80 per legal carton of 200 cigarettes) and easy,
widespread availability as many are sold from roadside shacks or car trunks.
    "In addition to the human cost of contraband, there is a mounting
financial cost to governments that is estimated conservatively at $1.6 billion
each year," added Bryans. "And to make matters worse, there is evidence that
the criminal networks involved in contraband tobacco are also players in
other, very serious criminal activities."

    Conference Keynote Address

    The conference was also highlighted by a keynote speech by former RCMP
Commissioner and Interpol President, Norman Inkster. In his remarks, Inkster
made a number of important observations in the debate around contraband
tobacco:

    
    -   The sale and trafficking of illegal tobacco products is not a
        phenomenon exclusive to Canada. It is estimated that the illegal
        tobacco trade accounts for almost seven percent of global tobacco
        consumption and is rising annually.

    -   Illegal cigarettes are manufactured using questionable methods, using
        sub-standard tobacco and completely ignoring all federal tobacco
        regulations. Contraband cigarettes contain ingredients that would be
        forbidden in a regulated marketplace and are then sold without
        warnings to an unsuspecting public and at a price that young people
        can afford.

    -   The illegal tobacco trade is not carried out just by small renegade
        operators running 'amateur' outfits. The reality is that highly
        sophisticated international criminal operators are increasingly
        dominating the picture. Contraband cigarette sales are becoming a
        source of financing for other, far more serious crime networks.
    

    Mr. Inkster closed his remarks with a plea to all parties involved to
work together to develop solutions to this growing problem.
    "I think this conference has been a great success," said Bryans. "Just
bringing together the voices we had here today was a good step toward getting
this issue closer to a long-term set of solutions. But as successful as this
forum has been, our work is just beginning and we will be pushing ahead with
other initiatives to help educate people to the dangers of contraband
tobacco."

    About CCSA

    The Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA) and its regional
affiliates: the Western Convenience Stores Association, the Atlantic
Convenience Stores association and the Quebec Convenience Stores Association
represent more than 30,000 convenience store operators throughout the Country.
CCSA is dedicated to responsible community retailing and maintains Canada's
toughest age verification program, 'We Expect ID', to keep restricted products
out of the hands of youth.





For further information:

For further information: English Media inquiries: Barry Wilson,
bw@communicor.ca, (416) 986-4666; French media inquiries: Guy Nadeau, (514)
651-3180

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Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA)

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