Absent real action against contraband tobacco, new flavoured tobacco bans a windfall for criminals
OTTAWA, Nov. 24, 2014 /CNW/ - The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) is frustrated that the government of Ontario's proposed ban on flavoured tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, will further fuel the province's booming trade in illegal tobacco.
"Just last week, Finance Minister Charles Sousa was trumpeting the need to take more action against contraband tobacco while introducing no new measures to do so. This week, they introduce legislation that will actually make the problem worse," said Gary Grant, national spokesperson for the NCACT and a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service. "Ontario is choosing to make contraband tobacco an even greater problem before they do anything to make it better."
Today, the government of Ontario announced that it will be introducing legislation, the Making Healthy Choices Act, 2014 that will, among other things, include a ban on flavoured tobacco products, including menthol-flavoured cigarettes. A ban on menthol cigarettes had not previously been considered when similar legislation was introduced before the last provincial election.
Ontario has the worst contraband tobacco problem in Canada, with more than 30% of cigarettes purchased over the year being illegal. This level spiked to a shocking 42% in July. Contraband tobacco is a cash cow for organized crime, with 175 criminal gangs using it to fund their other illegal activities, including guns, drugs and human smuggling. It's also a major drain on government revenues, with Ontario taxpayers losing about a billion dollars a year to the trade.
"The illegal market for menthol cigarettes is already booming. Banning legal menthol products, about 5% of the market, will only drive consumers to underground illegal channels," continued Grant. "In fact, the illegal market already has about twice as many kinds of menthol products available for sale than the legal market. All sold at a fraction of the price of legal products and without any age verification."
The NCACT has observed almost 30 brands of contraband menthol cigarettes for sale throughout the province, be it at one of hundreds of unlicensed smoke shacks or through illegal cigarette's established drug-dealer distribution network.
The NCACT has previously called on the government of Ontario to follow through on commitments it has made in the last three provincial budgets to implement new anti-contraband tobacco measures. These should include measures that have demonstrated success in other jurisdictions, such as tougher fines and additional powers for local police to lead anti-contraband investigations as well as greater licensing of cigarette manufacturing materials. The NCACT believes that any changes to availability of legal product should follow, not precede, successful introduction of anti-contraband measures.
"The government of Ontario has acknowledged that its contraband tobacco problem is out of control, but has so far done little new to actually address it. It is important that it take real and meaningful actions to address this problem," concluded Grant. "Without doing so, additional changes to the legal market, such as a ban on menthol cigarettes, will be counterproductive, serving only to line the pockets of the criminals involved in the trade and undermining the governments overall aims."
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 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) [email protected]