Time for Action on Cigarette Smuggling - Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco Calls for Urgent Action by Federal Government

    OTTAWA, Feb. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - National health organizations today called
on federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to implement - on an urgent basis -
effective measures to control widespread cigarette smuggling. The Canadian
Coalition for Action on Tobacco wants measures introduced in Minister
Flaherty's forthcoming budget, and preferably before.
    "Levels of cigarette smuggling have reached crisis proportions," said
Aaron Levo, Chair of the coalition. "Cigarette smuggling has negative
ramifications in terms of youth smoking, public health, government revenue
loss, border security, and crime prevention. Unless urgent action is taken,
things will get even worse. Already, far too many high school students have
access at school to contraband cigarettes."
    "The easy availability of cheap, illegal cigarettes threatens progress at
reducing smoking," says Neil Collishaw, Research Director for Physicians for a
Smoke-free Canada. "Smuggling is undermining the benefits of not only higher
tobacco taxes, but also other educational and legislative initiatives."
    Contraband cigarettes are often available in Ontario and Quebec for
$15-$20 per carton of 200 cigarettes, and sometimes even less, compared to a
legal price of $50-$70 in these provinces. Most but not all of these
cigarettes are manufactured by illegal operations on the U.S. side of
Akwesasne (the largest source), as well as on Six Nations near Brantford,
Ontario; on Kahnawake near Montreal; and on Tyendinaga, near Belleville,
    "Given that the major sources of smuggling entering Canada are illegal
operations on the U.S. side of the Akwesasne reserve, why is the federal
government silent in the face of inaction by the American Government?" asked
François Damphousse, Quebec Director for the Non-Smokers' Rights Association.
"The Canadian Government should be absolutely insisting that the Americans
shut down the illegal production, just as the Americans would do if the
reverse situation were occurring."
    "When an ambulance carrying one person was stopped at the U.S. border in
November, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day publicly expressed concern to
the U.S. government, even releasing a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of
Homeland Security Michael Chertoff," explained Louis Gauvin, Coordinator of
the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control. "But Minister Day has said nothing
in response to the American Government tolerating cheap cigarettes being
smuggled into Canada, a grave situation affecting the health of hundreds of
thousands of Canadians."
    The Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco supports implementation of a
comprehensive federal strategy to prevent tobacco contraband, including
(1) demanding that the U.S. Government shut down smuggling entering Canada;
(2) prohibiting the supply to unlicensed manufacturers of raw materials used
to manufacture tobacco products; (3) establishing a minimum bond of at least
$5 million to obtain a federal tobacco manufacturer license; (4) revoking the
federal licences of manufacturers acting illegally; and (5) implementing a
"tracking and tracing" system.
    "In terms of public health, the escalating cigarette smuggling crisis is
a train wreck waiting to happen," says Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst
for the Canadian Cancer Society. "The longer the federal government waits to
act, the more difficult it will be to get the crisis under control. There is
no justification for any further delay."

For further information:

For further information: Aaron Levo, Chair, Canadian Coalition for
Action on Tobacco, cell. (613) 261-4160; Neil Collishaw, Physicians for a
Smoke-free Canada, (613) 233-4878, cell. (613) 297-3590; Rob Cunningham,
Canadian Cancer Society, (613) 565-2522, ext. 305; François Damphousse,
Non-Smokers' Rights Association, (514) 843-3250, cell. (514) 237-7626; Louis
Gauvin, Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control, cell. (514) 816-5493

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