Ottawa Citizen

Ontario can’t ignore flood of illegal cigarette sales

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Re: Nearly 25 per cent of cigarettes sold in province illegal: survey, Oct. 15.

As a convenienc­e- store owner, I feel it my duty to respond to this article. I can wholeheart­edly back Imperial Tobacco’s survey with my own statistics. Tobacco sales have been dropping drasticall­y, but all the same people are smoking. Very few have quit. They are just carrying an illegal brand in their pockets and they willingly admit that they have switched to this tobacco.

Imperial Tobacco has always been a very good company to deal with. It is meticulous in its operations and is very detailed in its informatio­n and reports. I beg Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson to take it seriously. I got the impression that Mr. Watson thought that Imperial Tobacco was making up the numbers.

From my own experience, I can say that Imperial’s numbers seem very accurate and its statements true.

Maybe Mr. Watson should do his own study and ask convenienc­e- store owners what their tobacco sales declines have been. He could also contact Dave Bryans, president of Ontario’s convenienc­e store associatio­n, about the decline in to- bacco sales. This is a plight faced by legal tobacco sellers everywhere. We are honest people trying to make an honest living and it is being snatched from us illegally.

Please understand that I am not waving a pro- smoking banner. I would be happy if the whole world were able to quit smoking. I am just asking for fairness. Right now, things are pretty lopsided.

What, exactly, could the government do with an extra $ 1.5 billion in tobacco tax revenue anyway?

L. A. DAVIDSON, St. Thomas, Ont.

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