TORONTO, April 22, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) called on the government to take meaningful action against illicit cigarettes in the upcoming provincial budget. Over the last two weeks, NCACT representatives were in Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Mississauga, Ottawa and Toronto to talk to residents about Ontario's illegal cigarette problem. In all, after speaking with NCACT, almost 2000 people signed a postcard to Premier Wynne calling for more government action.
"Ontario has the worst contraband tobacco problem in Canada, an illegal trade which brings serious social consequences," said Jacqueline Bradley, NCACT's Executive Director. "Illegal cigarette's low cost - a 'baggie' of 200 cigarettes often costs less than a movie ticket - combined with the fact that contraband dealers don't check ID, make illegal cigarettes a prime source for youth smoking. In fact, a study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health indicated that easy access to illegal cigarettes were one of the reasons for Ontario's stubbornly high teen smoking rate."
Contraband tobacco is also a cash cow for organized crime. The RCMP estimates that about 175 criminal gangs use the profits from the trade to finance their other activities, including guns, drugs, and human smuggling. Contraband tobacco also bites at the public purse: a December report from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates that the federal and provincial governments lose as much as $1.1 billion a year in tax revenues to Ontario's illegal cigarette trade.
"Members of the public that we spoke with are deeply concerned about the illegal cigarette problem in Ontario," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service and NCACT's national spokesperson. "Almost 2000 people signed postcards to Premier Kathleen Wynne asking for more government action against this problem. The premier will be receiving them later today. With the provincial budget expected to be delivered within weeks, there is a real opportunity for this government to take meaningful action to fight this scourge."
The NCACT hopes that the Ontario government will use the upcoming budget to follow through on anti-contraband commitments made in the 2012 provincial budget. There, the government committed to exploring increased powers to police, tougher penalties, and to look to other jurisdictions for best practices. Illegal cigarettes are a complicated cross-jurisdictional problem. It's important that the province also work with partners in other governments, including the federal, provincial, American and First Nations.
"Contraband tobacco is a problem that affects all communities in Ontario," concluded Bradley. "It funds organized crime, provides cigarettes to kids, and starves the provincial government of funds. It is imperative that the government use the opportunity of a budget to take meaningful action."
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 include: Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), Retail Council of Canada, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, National Convenience Stores Distributors Association (NACDA), Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Frontier Duty Free Association, Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers, Fédération des Chambres de Commerce du Québec (FCCQ), Conseil du Patronat du Québec (CPQ), l'Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ), Toronto Crime Stoppers, National Citizen's coalition, The Customs & Immigration Union (CIU), the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
SOURCE: National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco
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