Small business bottom lines will be protected from the harm illegal tobacco causes, thanks to the new Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team in Ontario.
The Government of Ontario has announced the creation of the new Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team within the Ontario Provincial Police. Convenience store retailers are pleased by the creation of this team.
“The Ontario Convenience Store Association (OCSA) is pleased that correctional services minister Yasir Naqvi and finance minister Charles Sousa are taking steps to address contraband tobacco with the creation of this task force,” said OCSA CEO Dave Bryans. “Illegal tobacco continues to thrive in Ontario, which hurts the bottom lines of our small businesses and government revenues. This is a significant step forward in addressing this ongoing problem.”
The new task force will work within the OPP’s Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, and will be focused on investigating the trafficking and smuggling of contraband tobacco in the province. Tobacco tax enforcement staff within Ontario’s Ministry of Finance will also work with the Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team to share information and collaborate on contraband tobacco enforcement investigations. This is in addition to existing tobacco enforcement measures including audits, inspections and investigations.
The OCSA is using this announcement to remind consumers and decision-makers of the role they play in the responsible sale of legal, taxed tobacco products, and in keeping these products out of the hands of minors.
“Our Association does not condone the sale of illegal, untaxed tobacco products in convenience stores, period,” said Bryans. “While we support more enforcement to tackle any illegal trade, Ontarians and government decision-makers must know that our stores are not the source of this problem.”
A December 2015 study from the OCSA found the province’s contraband tobacco rate to sit at approximately 23%, with some surveyed locations having rates as high as 48% illegal tobacco use. The Association has suggested that, in addition to enforcement, more work be done to prevent youth access to tobacco products. Specifically, the OCSA has suggested a possession, purchase and consumption ban on tobacco products by minors, which is presently the case for alcohol as defined in the province’s Liquor Control Act.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Ontario in correcting this important issue for our businesses and communities, and to finding a long-term solution to prevent youth tobacco use,” said Bryans.