New provisions will help reduce prevalence of illegal cigarettes in province
OTTAWA, March 27, 2012 /CNW/ - The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) was pleased that Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's budget included provisions that will crack down on contraband tobacco. This follows through on a campaign commitment during the last provincial election and addresses recommendations included in the Drummond report. The budget identified that these measures will raise $375 million in revenues over the next three years, with $175 million in additional revenues in subsequent years.
"Ontario is demonstrating that it is taking the contraband tobacco problem seriously," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police service and spokesperson for the NCACT. "And so they should: illegal cigarettes not only represent massive revenue losses for the government, but are also a cash cow for organized crime. In fact, the RCMP estimates that more than 175 criminal gangs use contraband tobacco to finance their other illegal activities. What's more, contraband tobacco's low price and easy accessibility make it a prime source for youth smoking. It's good news that the government is committing to meaningful action."
The budget committed to new legislation to provide additional anti-contraband enforcement tools. Measures being considered include increased fines, tickets for those caught with small amounts of illegal tobacco, allowing for vehicles suspected of being used to smuggle tobacco to be stopped and searched, as well as proven best practices from other provinces. The budget also reinforced the government's commitment to implement Bill 186, which was passed last year. This includes new registration and tracking requirements for raw leaf tobacco.
"We are encouraged that Ontario is willing to learn from how other jurisdictions have tackled the problem of contraband tobacco," continued Grant. "For example, Quebec has had success by allowing municipal police forces to investigate and prosecute contraband tobacco offences, with proceeds from fines even being kept by the city. This keeps law enforcement organizations close to the problem and gives them the tools they need to address it. This regime has proved successful enough that, in its budget last week, Quebec moved to expand it even further."
The NCACT is pleased Ontario recognizes that there must be greater inter-governmental and inter-departmental cooperation to coordinate anti-contraband tobacco activities. The problem of contraband tobacco crosses borders and ministries, and government's response must be nimble. There is a real opportunity for Ontario to take a leadership role in this regard, reaching out to other provincial and state governments, particularly Quebec and New York State, as well as First Nations leaders, to address this important problem.
"The budget's announcement was an important first step," concluded Grant. "We look forward to working with the government and other stakeholders in the coming months to turn words into action. Together, we can tackle contraband tobacco in Ontario, which will provide the province with significant revenue, hurt organized crime, and keep cigarettes out of the hands of our youth. That's something worth working towards. "
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.
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