More than 300 Million Additional Cigarettes Bound for Illegal Market Without Action on Contraband Tobacco

Bill 45 will drive users to the criminal tobacco market, already 33% of cigarettes purchased in Ontario

TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) warned that without further action against contraband tobacco, measures in Bill 45 banning menthol and other flavoured tobacco products will only fuel Ontario's booming illegal tobacco market.

"Ontario has the worst contraband tobacco problem in Canada, something that the provincial government has recognized as recently as in the Fall Economic Update," said Gary Grant, national spokesperson for the NCACT and a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service. "Unfortunately, Bill 45 will only serve to make this problem worse by driving sales to the illegal market."

Bill 45, the Making Healthy Choices Act, 2014, will, among other things, ban flavoured tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. The black market already has a large number of flavoured tobacco products available for sale. This is particularly true of menthol, where the NCACT has observed about 30 types of menthol products available for sale on the illegal market, about twice as many as in the legal market.

"Over the last year, 1 in 3 cigarettes purchased in Ontario have been illegal; in October, it spiked to 40%," continued Grant. "Already illicit manufacturers have grown to meet black market demand, including a noticeable spike following a federal ban on flavoured products. With menthol representing about 5% of the legal tobacco market, a ban on these products will simply drive 300 million more cigarettes underground every year. Remember: a larger contraband market just means better funded gangs. Ontario can't stand for this."

All Ontarians should be concerned about illegal cigarettes. 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. Ontario has made commitments in the last three provincial budgets to implement new anti-contraband tobacco measures. These should include measures that have demonstrated success in other jurisdictions like Quebec, where tougher fines and additional powers for local police to lead anti-contraband investigations have produced results.  

"Ontario has talked a lot about tackling contraband tobacco, but unfortunately there's been no real action," concluded Grant. "Without concrete and effective action against contraband tobacco, Bill 45 will only serve to make this problem worse, adding profits to the bottom lines of criminal gangs while not achieving the government's larger tobacco control aims. That helps no one."

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).

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SOURCE: National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)

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

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