Con­tra­band cigs hot item

Ac­count for 10 per cent of those smoked, say stores

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL MACEACH­ERN

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.

PHOTO BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Con­tra­band cig­a­rettes are turn­ing up all over New­found­land, in­clud­ing in Car­bon­ear, ac­cord­ing to re­search the At­lantic Con­ve­nience Stores As­so­ci­a­tion re­cently re­leased.

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