Waging a War on Contraband Tobacco
Speak out against contraband cigarettes next week when a six-city tour designed to educate the public visits Cornwall.Cornwall Standard Freeholder (December 2, 2008) - People in Cornwall can speak out against contraband cigarettes next week when a six-city tour designed to educate the public and turn political momentum wraps in the Seaway city.
A multi-based organization called the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is brainstorming solutions to the smuggling problem it says costs human lives and billions of dollars each year in Ontario and Quebec.
"Will we accept the wild west we saw two weeks ago in Cornwall?" asked Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA) president Dave Bryans, referring to a car crash that killed three people in Akwesasne after a cigarette runner fled police.
The CCSA is one of several organizations participating in the community forums. The RCMP, whoBryans said is "stretched to the limit", is also expected to make a presentation about the work it does to combat the smuggling problem.
Bryans will present a series of studies such as a 2008 survey of underage smokers that showsCornwall youths light up bargain basement contraband cigarettes 38 per cent of the time. These cigarettes, he said, are untested and unregulated with possible contaminants.
"If my kid went to high school in Cornwall, I'd sure be concerned that someone was selling him $10 bags of cigarettes out of lunch box or a locker," Bryans said.
Then there's the loss to convenience stores. Bryans estimates places like Cornwall and Brantfordare losing twice as much as convenience stores in Toronto.
One component of the meetings will be to educate residents about the contraband cigarette problem. So far there have been stops in Durham, York Region and Brantford, with others scheduled for Windsor and Ottawa.
"In some communities people don't realize it's such a problem," said National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco spokesperson John Perenack. "Obviously yours is the epicentre."
Bryans is hoping that not only local retailers attend the meeting, but politicians, educators and members of the local health unit, too.
Bryans said if Ontario had the $1.2 billion it lost in taxes from illegal cigarettes last year, it wouldn't have an ongoing deficit. Despite that, he said he's having a tough time getting the attention of Parliament or Queen's Park.
Meanwhile, Bryans said the Smoke-Free Ontario Act is being countered by the sale of contraband cigarettes. Convenience stores have stricter ID policies in place, but illegal dealers are unlikely to consider a buyer's age.
"We can get your age in one second, but everything that happens outside the store is illegal,"Bryans said.
Bryans called tobacco a "sunset category" for convenience stores.
"We don't hang our hats on it," he said. The Cornwall meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 11, from 7-9 p. m., at the Ramada Inn on Brookdale Avenue.
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