Contraband smugglers endanger national security and put youth at risk

National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco members propose three immediate actions to help reign in rampant cigarette smuggling

OTTAWA, April 27 /CNW/ - Members of the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) will be speaking to the federal government today to tell members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) how rampant smuggling of illegal tobacco into Canada is endangering national security and putting Canada's youth at risk.

The message to the Harper government will be delivered by two prominent members of the NCACT who will be speaking to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security later today: The Customs and Immigration Union, which represents Canada's Front-Line Customs and Immigration Officers, as well as Investigation, Intelligence and Trade Customs Officers, Immigration Inland Enforcement and Hearings Officers, as well as all support staff at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA); and, the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, the association representing over 25,000 convenience stores in Canada.

"Most Canadians, we suspect, would be surprised to know that despite the remote and unwatched terrain which is much of the border between Canada and the United States that we lack an effective capacity to detect and interdict that which is entering Canada illegally between our designated ports of entry," said Jean-Pierre Fortin, First Vice President, Customs and Immigration Union. "Let me also say that this vulnerability extends beyond the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into Canada. We know from our own and US intelligence reports that this illegal cross border movement includes the southbound and northbound flow of counterfeit goods, drugs, guns and people along with contraband tobacco."

"The Canadian Convenience Stores Association has been sounding the alarm on contraband for over three years and is particularly concerned about how easy it now is for youth to get cigarettes. Kids shouldn't smoke at all, but they're having no trouble getting tobacco from criminal traffickers of contraband," said Dave Bryans, President of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association. "We've studied the problem of youth and contraband tobacco for a number of years. An analysis of cigarette butts found around high schools has shown contraband tobacco present at every schoolyard examined, with some Ontario schools in 2009 such as Pickering High School showing 41% contraband, St. Mary's in Woodstock with 34%, and 50% contraband at Huron Heights in Newmarket.

Three Immediate Actions to Reduce Contraband

The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is asking for three important measures to be immediately taken by the federal government:

1) Leadership. We want the government to appoint a point person, or contraband Czar with the authority to co-ordinate multiple federal agencies, resources, and liaise with the provinces, aboriginal groups, New York State, and the U.S. government.

2) Maintaining tighter border controls at Cornwall, Ontario. The government must remain steadfast and keep in place changes made at the border checkpoint at the crossing in Cornwall, Ontario. In particular, the border checkpoint must remain on the Ontario side of the crossing. These changes have made it much more difficult to transport contraband through the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation from the United States to Canada.

3) Tough penalties for smugglers and sellers. As of today, the crime of smuggling contraband tobacco carries only fines from the Excise Act. These fines are relatively insignificant and don't present a deterrent to smuggling. Criminal charges for contraband would also open enforcement against contraband to every police force across our country, instead of limited enforcement of the Excise Act by the RCMP.

SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)

For further information: For further information: Media inquiries: John Perenack, (quick response), (416) 238-2576

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