/R E P E A T -- More than 40% of Cigarettes Purchased in Ontario are Contraband/

Government Looks the Other Way, says NCACT

OTTAWA, Sept. 23, 2014 /CNW/ - Today, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) called on the government of Ontario to finally take Ontario's contraband problem seriously. This call came in in light of new information about the trade of illegal cigarettes in the province which confirms that in July 42% of cigarettes purchased in Ontario were contraband.

"We can't accept the fact that more than 4 in 10 cigarettes bought in Ontario are illegal and has become the norm for some politicians in this province," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service and national spokesperson for the NCACT. "In fact, if Ontario were a country, its illegal cigarette problem would take it to the top three in all of the Americas. The only thing standing in the way of a solution is the lack of political will in Ontario to address the issue."

This new data, conducted by a major market-research firm, polled Canadian adult smokers using a continuous annual online tracking study. The survey measured the type and quantity of cigarettes purchased by respondents in the past 7 days.

"We've long known that Ontario has the worst contraband tobacco problem in Canada, but now we know just how extreme the challenge is. This challenge is created by low price and easy availability of illegal cigarettes, with a "baggie" of 200 cigarettes costing as little as $8," continued Grant. "Illegal cigarette sales are a cash cow for organized crime, with criminals using the proceeds to finance their other activities, including guns, drugs and human trafficking. The Ontario government's inaction is causing the problem to flourish in other provinces and making it more difficult for the Federal government to tackle it."

The RCMP estimates that there are about 175 criminal gangs involved in the contraband tobacco trade. They also estimate that there are about 50 illegal factories operating in Canada. Contraband is also a prime source for youth smoking, as the criminals involved in the trade don't check for I.D.

"This is all the more reason that the government of Ontario should take immediate and meaningful action to address this problem, such as through new enforcement powers for local police and municipalities, heavier fines, and tighter controls on non-tobacco manufacturing materials and simply enforce the existing laws. Controlling the raw leaf supply from Ontario would simply not be enough." said Grant.

The Ontario government has committed to anti-contraband measures in the last three budgets, but thus far has not followed through with additional action. The Ontario government should enforce the anti-contraband possession rules that were put in place with Bill 186. And in 2015, it should look to Quebec as a model for anti-contraband measures: Quebec's Bill 59, introduced in 2009, gave more powers to police and to municipalities to act against and prosecute contraband tobacco activities in their regions. While there is more to do in Quebec, these measures have had a positive effect on fighting contraband trade in that province.

"The choice for the government of Ontario is clear. It can accept the status quo, allowing criminal groups to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in easy profits, or it can follow through on commitments and introduce measures to address this problem," concluded Grant. "The time for promises is over. It's time that the government takes action."

The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is a Canadian advocacy group formed by organizations and associations 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 are: Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec (ADA), Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ), Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), Customs and Immigration Union, Échec au crime Québec, Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ), Frontier Duty Free Association (FDFA), National Convenience Stores Distributors Association (NACDA), Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Retail Council of Canada, Toronto Crime Stoppers and United Korean Commerce and Industry Association (UKCIA).


SOURCE: National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)

For further information: Michael Powell, (p) 1-866-950-5551, (m) 613-797-7313, (e) info@stopcontrabandtobacco.ca


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