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1 in 3 cigarettes sold in Ontario are contraband

Staff Writer |
The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) released results of a study highlighting 32% of cigarettes purchased in Ontario were illegal. In some parts of Ontario, nearly 60% cigarettes were illegal.

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"Ontario's contraband problem continues to be the worst in Canada - 1 in 3 of all cigarettes purchased in the province are illegal," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service and national spokesperson for the NCACT. "The prevalence of illegal cigarettes has remained at this rate for years, and smuggling networks have become more entrenched. Coming changes to Canada's tobacco packaging regulations will only make this problem worse."

Contraband was highest in Northern Ontario, where illegal cigarettes represented 59% of all cigarettes purchased. 36% of cigarettes in Southern Ontario were illegal, as were 33% in Eastern Ontario and Ottawa. Contraband rates are lowest in the GTA, underscoring the scope of the problem in the rest of Ontario. The survey of 1500 adult smokers in Ontario was conducted by GFK over a 12-week period ending on August 18th, 2018. Respondents were asked through a continuous online tracking study about their cigarette purchases over the past 7 days.

"Unfortunately, contraband tobacco has not only remained plentiful, but it has also become more sophisticated," continued Grant. "While traditionally illegal cigarettes were sold in "baggies" of 200, almost 80% are now more elaborate branded packs. These are mostly purchased from smoke shacks. Two thirds of Ontario smokers aren't even aware that purchasing these are illegal."