PARRY SOUND - The government is getting tough on illegal cigarettes.
Last week, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews announced the establishment of a 50-officer RCMP anti-contraband force.
In addition, the government has created a criminal code offence that comes with mandatory imprisonment for repeat offenders. Contraband tobacco is any tobacco product not taxed or regulated.
MP for Muskoka-Parry Sound Tony Clement said the change is part of the government’s plan of focusing on tackling crime while developing a fair and efficient justice system.
“Contraband tobacco needs to be kept off our streets and out of Canadian communities, where the availability of inexpensive, illegal tobacco products and cheap baggies of illegal cigarettes lure our children into smoking,” said Clement.
The proposed bill would create mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders if a large quantity of tobacco products are involved. Offenders could expect to receive 90 days of incarceration on a second conviction, 180 days for a third conviction and two years less a day on subsequent conviction.
“Canada is an established world leader in tobacco control, and we will continue to combat this illicit market which threatens the health and safety of Canadians,” said MP Clement
Traffickers of illegal cigarettes are, according to the government, often affiliated with other serious organized criminal activity such as weapons and drug trafficking.
Ron Campbell, staff sergeant for the West Parry Sound detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police, said local police do see contraband cigarettes in the area.
He said an incident last year saw police pulling over a vehicle with close to 100 cases of contraband cigarettes.
“The danger to the community is any cigarette you smoke is hazardous to your health and all that money that isn’t realized through tax dollars doesn’t go in to support your healthcare or hospitals and things like that,” said Campbell.