Handy facts about tobacco contraband
The contraband market is growing in Canada. The failure in the last few years to take effective action to curb contraband has meant that the problem has gotten much worse. Unless we succeed in controlling contraband, there will be a serious adverse impact on smoking trends, undermining other tobacco control interventions.
The following are some handy facts about tobacco contraband that you can use when speaking about the subject with friends and family, the media and politicians.
- Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada.
- Tobacco causes about 30% of cancer deaths and 85% of lung cancer.
- Contraband provides access to cheap illegal cigarettes which encourages smoking
- Contraband tobacco is costing federal, provincial, and territorial governments significant lost revenue from tobacco taxes (estimates suggest as much as $1 billion a year).
- Contraband is a major crime issue for Canadians, linked to other illegal activity such as drugs and weapons trafficking and illegal immigration.
- Consumers have increasing access to very cheap cigarettes (sometimes $15 or less per carton of 200 cigarettes, compared to the legal price in Ontario and Quebec of about $50-$70 per carton).
- Contraband is too easy for minors to buy, and this encourages youth smoking. Many high school students have access to cheap contraband cigarettes.
- Contraband is a national problem. Some contraband sources in Ontario and Quebec are also supplying contraband to Western Canada and Atlantic Canada.
- Contraband is undermining the potential effectiveness of higher tobacco taxes. Higher tobacco taxes reduce smoking.
- The presence of contraband is deterring federal, Ontario and Quebec governments from increasing tobacco taxes: there has not been a net federal tobacco tax increase since 2002; in Quebec since 2003; and in Ontario since January 2006.
- The government is losing revenue to the contraband market. The uncollected tobacco taxes could have been used for health initiatives or other government priorities. Although it is difficult to estimate the size of the contraband market, federal and provincial governments are losing out more than $1 billion per year directly because of illegal sales and indirectly because of forgone tobacco tax increases.
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