OTTAWA, May 31, 2012 /CNW/ - Today, in recognition of World No Tobacco Day, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) highlighted the need for ongoing efforts from governments to curb the spread of illegal cigarettes. The NCACT believes that this internationally recognized awareness day offers the perfect opportunity to underline how contraband tobacco continues to make a mockery of the legal and regulatory protections that government has put in place to minimize tobacco use.
"This is particularly important when it comes to youth, who shouldn't be smoking at all. Contraband tobacco is extremely cheap, with a 'baggie' of 200 cigarettes often costing less than a movie ticket," said NCACT spokesperson Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service. "This low price, paired with easy accessibility, makes a dangerous combination that has made illegal cigarettes a prime source for youth smoking. In fact, a recent study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health flagged the easy accessibility of contraband tobacco as a major reason for Ontario's relatively high teen-smoking rate."
Illegal cigarettes finance some of Canada's least desirable elements. The RCMP estimates that contraband tobacco is the cash cow of more than 175 criminal gangs, who use the proceeds to finance their other activities, including guns, drugs, and human smuggling.
"Stopping kids from smoking and limiting funding to organized crime are reasons enough for government to take action on this important problem," continued Grant. "But contraband tobacco also brings a fiscal cost to the public purse. Illegal cigarettes cost governments in Canada roughly 2.1 billion dollars annually in lost tax revenues. That's a lot of money, particularly in an era of fiscal restraint and budget tightening."
The NCACT is working to raise awareness about this need. To mark World No Tobacco Day, the coalition is running print and radio advertising in some of the key communities that are affected by illegal tobacco. It has also had large scale advertisements positioned around the nation's capital for the past month in hopes of raising awareness of this problem with the public and politicians.
"We are doing our part to raise the issue, but it is ultimately up to governments to act," continued Grant. "Fortunately, provincial governments are beginning to do so. Quebec and Ontario's recent budgets both committed to tough new anti-contraband measures, and the federal government committed to mandatory minimum sentences for repeat smugglers and a dedicated RCMP task force. These are important steps in the right direction, and we hope that the government will enact them in short order."
More still needs to be done. The most important thing that governments can do is to recognize that contraband tobacco is a problem that crosses departments and jurisdictions. Governments must work together to tackle this issue. Provinces, the federal government, the US state and federal governments, and First Nations' leaders need to share information and have an open dialogue to eradicate this criminal activity.
"World No Tobacco Day is a time to think about how we can make our tobacco efforts as effective as possible," concluded Grant. "Contraband tobacco makes a mockery of government regulations, it's an easy source of cigarettes for kids - who shouldn't be smoking at all - and it finances organized crime. It is an important place to focus. We need to act now."
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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