Black-market smokes bankroll mobsters


Some of the money earned from the sale of black market smokes is fuelling firearm and drug smuggling efforts by organized criminal groups, an expert says.

About $2 billion in tax revenue goes up in smoke as a result of the sale of illegal smokes, according to a report by the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council. About 13 billion illegal cigarettes are sold in Canada a year.

“People think selling contraband cigarettes is a victimless crime and no one gets hurt. Yes, it deprives us of tax dollars, but it is money that is pumped back into organized crime,” said Gary Grant, a former Toronto cop, who heads of the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco.

“Organized criminals are lining their pockets with sales from illegal cigarettes to traffic their weapons and drugs,” he added yesterday.

NCACT recently conducted a study which found 30% of the cigarette butts collected around high schools were illegal.

There has been evidence for some time that links illegal cigarettes to the trafficking of drugs and guns, said Wendy Cukier, of the Coalition for Gun Control.

“Strong border control, random searches reduce the illegal activity,” she said.

“We don’t know what extent of money from illegal cigarettes are spent on drugs and guns.”

Community groups, retailers, business organizations and health groups are all calling for government action, said Benjamin Kemball, president of Imperial Tobacco Canada.

“It is not every day that you get tobacco companies and health groups asking for the same thing. When you do it is time to listen,” Kemball said in a release.


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