A third annual study of illegal cigarette consumption in Newfoundland continues to show unacceptably high levels of criminal activity says a spokesperson for the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association, who commissioned the research.
“The latest research indicates that the prevalence of illegal cigarettes in Newfoundland is likely something in the range of 15 per cent,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the association. “That’s a lot of illegal sales and it’s costing the provincial government millions of dollars in lost revenue. If you are an adult and you want to smoke, you should be prepared to pay the legal price and taxes.”
The research findings are based on almost 2,800 cigarette ends collected in late September and early October from 20 sites in St. John’s, Mount Pearl, Paradise, Conception Bay South, Carbonear and Avondale. The work was done by NIRIC, an independent, Montreal-based research firm who has done almost 30 of these studies across Canada.
The prevalence of illegal cigarettes at the 20 sites ranged from a low of 4.2 per cent at St. John’s City Hall to a high of 31.3 per cent at George and Adelaide Streets in St. John’s.
Melissa Gough, who manages the Needs at 54 Ropewalk Lane says that a 27.8 per cent prevalence of illegal cigarettes at Memorial University in St. John’s, 14.7 per cent at the College of the North Atlantic in St. John’s, and 19.4 per cent at Roncalli Central High School in Avondale is disturbing: “We’re trying to discourage youth and young adults from smoking, but they have easy access to lots of illegal product and the cost is a fraction of what legal product costs.”
Hammoud agrees that the provincial government needs to pay more attention to illegal tobacco and the youth and young adult smoking issue. He says that the provincial government passed a ban on flavoured tobacco this year because of concerns over the impact these products were having on youth and young adult smoking. In addition, says Hammoud, the government committed to $250,000 in new funding for new and expanded programs and services to help people quit smoking.
“If we’re talking about reducing the factors that encourage youth and young adults to smoke, then criminal trafficking in illegal cigarettes is a far more serious issue than flavoured tobacco ever would be.”
The convenience store industry is encouraging the provincial government to enact tougher legislation because illegal cigarette sales ultimately undermine the health, safety and well-being of communities.