TORONTO, Feb. 22, 2018 /CNW/ - Today, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) pushed for an increased response in Ontario to address the province's contraband tobacco problem. The upcoming provincial budget offers an opportunity to introduce common sense contraband measures that have proven to be effective.
Ontario has the worst contraband tobacco problem in Canada, with about one in three cigarettes purchased in the province being illegal. Contraband rates have remained consistent in the past number of years, despite the anti-contraband measures adopted by the government.
"Ontario's illegal cigarette problem makes a mockery of its other tobacco control efforts," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service and national spokesperson for the NCACT. "Rules, regulations, and pricing don't matter if illegal products are readily and cheaply available."
Ontario should postpone the implementation of further planned tobacco tax increases until such a time that contraband tobacco is more under control. If price is a deterrent to smoking the province should first target the cigarettes that are cheapest and easiest to get. Raising the cost of legal product will only make illegal cigarettes more lucrative and attractive. The best way of stopping illegal tobacco is increasing enforcement.
"Ontario should focus on enforcement," continued Grant. "We only have to look to our neighbours in Quebec to see what has worked. They have adopted proven, cost-effective, and uncontroversial measures to reduce the incidence of illegal cigarettes. Law enforcement, including local police, were given the tools to investigate and prosecute contraband tobacco offences, with dedicated funding through the Acces Tabac program. As a result, Quebec has reduced contraband by half, and in 2015-2016 generated $180.6 million in revenues because of these programs."
The NCACT is also concerned about Federal legislation to introduce the plain packaging of tobacco products, which increased contraband when implemented in Australia. While packaging regulations are a federal responsibility, Ontario will bear the brunt of contraband increases, so should push government for appropriate anti-contraband tobacco measures to be implemented in advance of plain packaging's roll out.
"Ontario has had virtually no success in reducing the prevalence of contraband tobacco in recent years," concluded Grant. "It's time that it looks to what works, and adopt the sensible enforcement measures that Quebec has shown to work. Increasing revenue, making tobacco control efforts more effective, and hurting organized crime should be an easy choice for the government, but it's one that up to now they've failed to take."
The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is a Canadian advocacy group formed by organizations and associations 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. More information about the Coalition can be found on our website, www.stopcontrabandtobacco.ca.
SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)
For further information: Media Contact: Michael Powell, NCACT Public Affairs, Telephone: 613-233-8906, Email: [email protected]