OTTAWA, May 31, 2018 /CNW/ - On World No Tobacco Day, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) highlighted that Canada's largest tobacco control challenge remains Canada's booming illegal cigarettes industry. Unfortunately while there are clear actions that can be taken by all levels of government to address this issue, Canada's new Tobacco Control Strategy only commits to additional research.
"Contraband tobacco is cheap, easily accessible, and entirely unregulated," said Gary Grant, the National Spokesperson for the NCACT and a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service. "Illicit tobacco makes a mockery of the government's tobacco control efforts. Even the toughest regulations are ineffective if they are easily circumvented. Any tobacco control strategy must include clear actions on addressing illegal cigarettes to be effective."
The sale of contraband cigarettes is a problem across Canada, but the epicentre of contraband cigarettes is Ontario, where over 1 in 3 cigarettes are illegal, with the highest incidence in Northern Ontario, where over 60% of purchased cigarettes are illegal. Even in Quebec, where provincial efforts have had success, the illict rate is still around 12%. The scale of the trade is clear in the frequency and size of tobacco smuggling busts. As just one example, this week a convoy of trucks carrying more than 14,000 kgs of illegal tobacco worth $1.3 million was apprehended by the Ontario Provincial Police.
"Beyond hindering tobacco control efforts, illicit tobacco also is a cash cow for organized crime," continued Grant. "The RCMP has identified about 175 criminal gangs involved in the trade, fueled by more than 50 illegal factories, each producing as many as 10,000 cigarettes a minute. Despite all the busts we see, this smuggling cigarettes remains an easy business for criminal gangs."
While the new Tobacco Control Strategy indicates that research is needed on how to address the problem, the NCACT believes that there are a number of concrete actions that would have a meaningful effect on reducing illcit tobacco. They share broad support among stakeholder groups and offer little cost to government. They are:
- Regulating the use of non-tobacco manufacturing materials, like cigarette filters. Ontario has already adopted a provincial requirement, which would benefit from becoming national;
- Increasing federal law enforcement efforts to conduct anti-contraband tobacco investigations;
- Working with the provinces and municipalities to leverage the abilities of local law enforcement to investigate cigarette smuggling, using Quebec's Acces Tabac as a model; and,
- Measuring contraband incidence on an ongoing basis, providing reliable, neutral and longitudinal information on illegal cigarette rates.
"Addressing contraband tobacco hurts organized crime and makes cigarettes harder to get by increasing the effectiveness of tobacco control regulations. That's a worthy achievement," concluded Grant. "While we believe that the need for immediate action is clear, we look forward to working with the government to highlight how it can effectively reduce contraband."
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. More information about the Coalition can be found on our website, www.stopcontrabandtobacco.ca.
SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)
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