Time for Action on Cigarette Smuggling
Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco Calls for
Urgent Action by Federal Government
Ottawa, February 4, 2008 – 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, Ontario.
“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.”
Chair, Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco
Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada
613-233-4878; cell. 613-297-3590
Canadian Cancer Society
613-565-2522, ext. 305
Non-Smokers’ Rights Association
514-843-3250; cell. 514-237-7626
Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control