Ontario Continues to Get Tough on Contraband Tobacco

OTTAWA, May 2, 2013 /CNW/ - The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) is pleased that the province of Ontario is committing to further action against illegal cigarettes.

"There is more contraband tobacco in Ontario than any other province, and it is important that government take concrete and meaningful action to address this problem" said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service and national spokesperson for the NCACT. "Illegal cigarettes have serious social consequences. Their 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. Illegal cigarettes are a cash cow for organized crime, with the RCMP estimating that about 175 criminal gangs use the trade to finance their other activities, including guns, drugs and human smuggling."

The budget reaffirms the province's recent willingness to consider enhanced anti-contraband measures as outlined in the 2012 budget. These include increased fines for those convicted of illegal tobacco offences, forfeiture of items seized as evidence of a contravention of the Tobacco Tax Act, and other measures. The NCACT has encouraged Ontario to adopt measures similar to those successfully introduced in Quebec. There, municipal police forces are able to investigate and prosecute contraband tobacco offences, even allowing municipalities to keep proceeds. The NCACT is also pleased that the government is exploring collaborative pilot projects with First Nations communities to implement long-lasting solutions.

"Ontario has taken important first steps against contraband tobacco through measures introduced in 2011, including greater monitoring of raw leaf tobacco, a uniform federal/provincial stamp, and fines for possession of illegal cigarettes," said Grant. "But more can still be done. By introducing meaningful new anti-contraband measures, law enforcement officials in Ontario will have much greater ability to investigate, arrest and prosecute the criminals involved in this trade. Greater enforcement has a clear impact on Ontario's bottom line: a 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."

"The actions in this budget are an important first step, but it is important that commitments quickly become action," concluded Grant. "We look forward to working with the government and other stakeholders in the coming months to do just that. Working together to address contraband tobacco, we can hurt organized crime, keep cigarettes out of the hands of our kids, and increase provincial revenues."

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

For further information:

Michael Powell
(p) 1-866-950-5551
(m) 613-797-7313
(e) info@stopcontrabandtobacco.ca

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