Contraband cigs hot item
Account for 10 per cent of those smoked, say stores
Contraband cigarettes are turning up all over Newfoundland, including in Carbonear.
Contraband cigarettes account for about 10 per cent of all smokes, says an Atlantic Canadian association of convenience stores.
The Atlantic Convenience Stores Association released research Tuesday that included the collection of cigarette butts from a variety of sites in St. John’s, Mount Pearl, Paradise, Conception Bay South, Carbonear and Avondale, with percentages of contraband smokes ranging from zero to 26.4 per cent.
Outside the Trinity Concep- tion Square mall in Carbonear, almost one-fifth of the 124 cigarette ends examined were found to be illegal (18.9 per cent). By the Carbonear General Hospital, 10.5 per cent of the 133 ends sampled were contraband.
Mike Hammoud, president of the association, told The Telegram there are several ways to determine a cigarette’s legality from the butt.
“There’s marking on filters themselves, the filter itself, the particles that would be within that,” he said. “I’m not the scientist, I apologize, but there’s many ways that they can look at it and decide, if they get it into a lab and dissect it.”
It averages out to an estimate of about one-tenth of cigarettes smoked in Newfoundland being sold illegally, said Hammoud. Similar research in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick showed higher rates of contraband cigarettes, he said - in the low 20s - chalking it up to those provinces’ closer proximity to Ontario and Quebec, which are doing a good job of cracking down within the provinces, but sending illegal cigarettes over provincial borders.
Illegal tobacco sales cut into the association’s members, noted Hammoud.
“Our concern is that it’s about 10 per cent, and that means that it’s a viable business for those who are distributing it, and to find that number and get it well below that threshold,” he said. “The hope would be that government would look at implementing harsher rules and harsher fines, harsher ( jail) time to deter people from doing it.”
Asked if convenience stores sell illegal cigarettes, Hammoud said organized crime drives contraband sales, not convenience stores.
“You couldn’t unknowingly sell them,” he said. “We haven’t heard of any convenience stores that are selling the product. You’d have way too much to lose. I couldn’t see someone taking that risk. You’d basically lose your business, and that’s your livelihood. I just couldn’t see that happening.”
But in Halifax earlier this year, a police investigation into contraband tobacco sales resulted in more than 100 charges being laid against 12 people, including convenience store retailers. Hammoud told the CBC at that time the majority of retailers follow the law.
“As an association, we have zero tolerance and no sympathy for retailers who engage in the illegal sale of restricted products,” he said.
Contraband cigarettes are turning up all over Newfoundland, including in Carbonear, according to research the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association recently released.