TORONTO, May 31, 2016 /CNW/ - Today is the World Health Organization's World No Tobacco Day, something particularly relevant to Ontario given the province's massive contraband tobacco problem, where illegal cigarettes account for 1-in-3 cigarettes purchased over the past year.
"Baggies filled with illegal cigarettes contain little or no warnings. If young people are not asked to show identification when buying illicit products, it makes it impossible to control their access to tobacco," said Gary Grant, National Spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT), and a 39 year veteran of the Toronto Police Service. "Society loses. Organized crime wins."
Just two months ago, the biggest illegal tobacco bust in North American history took place in Canada and involved over 700 police officers. This bust, known as Operation Mygale, resulted in the arrests of more than 60 people and included the seizure of close to 53,000 kg of tobacco. According to law enforcement groups, over the past 18 months the criminals involved in this bust illegally imported into Canada close to 2,300 tons of processed tobacco, which represents a total production of 4 billion cigarettes. This bust also included the seizure 836 of kilograms of cocaine and other drugs, making it one of the three largest seizures done in Canada in the past 25 years.
"The recent Operation Mygale bust shows that this is a problem that isn't getting better," continued Grant. "Given Ontario has the worst illegal cigarette problem in the country, we wanted to meet with policy advisors and MPPs from all parties to discuss what to do against this growing threat."
Commitment to enforcement is essential in the fight against illegal tobacco, particularly given the estimated 175 organized criminal groups involved in its sale. With the Ontario budget's recent tobacco tax increase, it is essential that the government allow new enforcement measures, like the new Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team, to disrupt the illegal networks, leading to more effective contraband reduction. The NCACT has found that an increase in the price differential between legal and illegal product will only make it easier for the organized criminal groups involved in the trade to profit and fund their other illegal activities. Large increases in taxes will drive consumers to seek less expensive alternatives which is counter-productive to the province's contraband enforcement commitment.
"World No Tobacco Day offers an important opportunity to discuss the fact that illegal cigarettes continue to be a scourge on our communities," concluded Grant. "They fund organized crime. They facilitate youth smoking. They shortchange taxpayers a phenomenal amount of money. We hope the Ontario government will prioritize this issue and look forward to working with legislators to ensure it is given the attention it needs."
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 are: Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec (ADA), Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ), Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), Customs and Immigration Union, Échec au crime Québec, Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ), Frontier Duty Free Association (FDFA), National Convenience Stores Distributors Association (NACDA), Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Retail Council of Canada, Toronto Crime Stoppers, United Korean Commerce and Industry Association (UKCIA), and National Capital Area Crime Stoppers.
SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)
For further information: To arrange interviews with Mr. Grant, please contact: Ashley Rensler, NCACT Public Affairs, Telephone: 1-866-950-5551 (office); 647-967-9324 (cell), Email: [email protected]