Contraband smokes lure Ottawa students: study

Teenagers in the nation’s capital continue to smoke a significant number of contraband cigarettes, a new study suggests.

The study, commissioned by the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, found that 23 per cent of cigarette butts collected from around 11 high schools in Ottawa were illegal cigarettes.

“Kids, who shouldn’t be smoking at all, are having no trouble getting their hands on illegal cigarettes that cost pennies apiece,” Gary Grant, spokesman for the group and retired Toronto police officer, said in Ottawa.

“For the third year running, this study shows that youth are a primary target of the thugs at the end of the contraband tobacco distribution chain. Governments need to take meaningful action now by banning youth possession of tobacco,” he added.

“If it’s illegal for someone under 19 to have a beer, the same or stricter rules should apply for cigarettes. It’s just common sense.”

Founded by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, the coalition is trying to stop the sale of illegal cigarettes in Canada. It says the percentage of illegal cigarette butts collected from Ottawa high schools this year is the same as last year when it conducted a similar study.

Grant said the availability of illegal cigarettes is undermining government moves to discourage smoking.

“The tragedy here is that contraband tobacco has short-circuited all the government’s anti-smoking efforts. Taxes, health warnings, display bans, mandatory I.D. checks, government anti-smoking initiatives — are all going up in smoke because of the wide availability of illegal cigarettes.”

A research company, on behalf of the coalition, visited the Ottawa high schools to collect cigarette butts from public grounds outside school property. Collection was done after school hours. The company collected, examined and classified the butts according to three categories: legal, contraband or unknown.

According to the coalition, contraband cigarettes are often made in unregulated factories and sold to kids out of the trunks of cars. It said the cigarettes are imported from countries such as the U.S. and China, or are illegally manufactured and sold in Canada, with tens of thousands of cartons being produced daily.

It said the cigarettes are priced cheaply, often selling for $1.00 for a pack of 20 cigarettes as compared with $8 or more for government-taxed cigarettes.

The illegal cigarettes are not subjected to government inspection, testing or review, and the tobacco products are being sold without taxes applied, which the coalition said robs the government of billions in revenue every year.


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