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Imperial Tobacco suggests organized crime is fueling illegal cigarette sales in British Columbia

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Imperial Tobacco Canada suggests that organized crime is fueling an increase in illegal tobacco sales in British Columbia.

A new study from Abacus Data shows that 34% of all cigarette sales in British Columbia are illegal.

While the province has increased taxes on tobacco products over the past four years, Imperial Tobacco’s vice president of legal and regulatory affairs says he’s not surprised at the rise in illegal tobacco sales. cigarettes in the province.

Eric Gagon adds that organized crime is fueling the surge, noting that illicit tobacco sales come primarily from illegal manufacturers in Ontario and Quebec.

“The RCMP says there are 50 illegal tobacco manufacturing operations in Canada. Basically, they are the ones who make different products and different brands. »

“Initially, it was more concentrated in Quebec and Ontario, but with the price of cigarettes now in British Columbia, the illegal traffickers saw a business opportunity, and now they are shipping these products as far west as Canada. .”

A carton of cigarettes sold by law-abiding retailers in British Columbia costs around $180, while the contraband carton sells for an average of $45. Gagon adds that British Columbia is the most expensive place to buy cigarettes in Canada.

“For example, British Columbia is the only place you go on Craigslist, and you have 96 ads on the website advertising cigarettes, which is illegal in Canada.”

Moreover, Gagon suggests that there is also a significant societal impact on our community. He explains that the RCMP claims that the people who sell illicit tobacco products are the same people who sell illicit firearms, human trafficking and other criminal activities.

“These illegal traffickers often meet customers in the parking lot of these convenience stores, open their trunks, openly sell their cigarettes, and nobody does anything. So it’s not just impacting tobacco companies, but it’s impacting many other stakeholders.

Since 2006, Gagon says more than $30 billion in tax revenue has been diverted from federal and provincial governments and into the hands of many of Canada’s most dangerous organized crime groups as they profit from this expansion of illicit trade.

“No one is going to cry because the big tobaccos are losing money, but there’s a big societal impact here,” he said. “We have a number of independent retailers who are losing their business to illicit traffickers and they are calling to say they are losing mom and pop shop.”

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