Governments must follow through on commitments to toughen penalties
OTTAWA, Jan. 20, 2012 /CNW/ - During National Non-Smoking Week, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) is underlining how easy access to illegal cigarettes undermines every one of Canada's tobacco control measures.
"Governments across Canada have gone to great lengths to control access to tobacco, including stringent ID and display requirements," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police service and spokesperson for the NCACT. "Sadly, contraband tobacco's ready availability and low price undermine these efforts."
Illegal cigarettes are readily available throughout Canada. Normally sold in clear resealable plastic bags, a "baggie" of 200 can cost as much as $70 less than legal product. Contraband tobacco is distributed through more than 300 smoke shacks that are located near major Canadian cities, as well as directly to consumers through a drug-dealer system. Contraband dealers don't check for ID, which makes illegal cigarettes a prime source for youth smoking. This was reinforced by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which found that contraband tobacco's easy availability is one of the reasons why Ontario's youth smoking rates have remained relatively high.
"It is troubling that the illegal market offers young people such easy access to tobacco. It's similarly disconcerting that it also puts cash into the coffers of some of Canada's least desirable elements," continued Grant. "By the RCMP's estimates, more than 175 criminal gangs use illegal cigarettes to finance their other activities, including guns, drugs and human smuggling,"
During the last federal election, the Conservatives committed to introducing legislation that would create mandatory minimum sentences for contraband smuggling, as well as a new RCMP taskforce to deal with contraband tobacco issues. The Prime Minister reinforced this commitment in his statement kicking off National Non-Smoking Week. Similarly, during Ontario's provincial election the Liberals committed to continuing the fight against contraband.
"Implementation of tougher anti-contraband measures by the federal and provincial governments is critical to the success of Canada's stop-smoking initiatives," concluded Grant. "As long as 200 illegal cigarettes cost less than going to the movies and are so easily accessible to Canada's youth, governments must follow through on their commitments and make combating illegal cigarettes a priority."
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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