New Brunswick convenience store retailers are supporting a crackdown on illegal tobacco sales in the province in a new partnership between the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association and New Brunswick Crime Stoppers. The partnership announcement was made at the same time the association released a new study showing that illegal cigarette sales in the province remain high.
“The provincial government’s new Contraband Enforcement Unit is on the right track and is starting to make an impact, but there needs to be more public awareness and support,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the association. “Both smokers and non-smokers tend to think that the sale of illegal tobacco is a harmless and victimless activity. But that’s far from the truth because profits from illegal tobacco trafficking typically flow back to organized crime and are used to fund other criminal activity. Illegal smokes also undermine anti-smoking efforts among youth because they’re cheap and easy to obtain.”
Under the partnership, the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association will fund New Brunswick Crime Stoppers anti-illegal tobacco advertising and tip rewards, and fund and coordinate a public awareness campaign in convenience stores throughout the province.
RCMP Sergeant Tammy Ward, Provincial Police coordinator for New Brunswick Crime Stoppers, says the public has an important role to play in reducing the sale of illegal tobacco in the province: “We need to say ‘enough is enough,’ that the sale of illegal tobacco is not only hurting our economy but putting cigarettes into the hands of youth. New Brunswickers need to assist law enforcement and the Contraband Enforcement Unit in identifying and stopping illegal activity. This can be done anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or on our website at www.crimenb.ca
The impact of public assistance is apparent in illegal tobacco seizures and arrests to date says Inspector Gary Forward, who leads the provincial government’s Contraband Enforcement Unit: “For safety and security reasons we don’t divulge our sources of intelligence for individual cases. However, public assistance is a key tool for us. In the end, reporting illegal tobacco activity through Crime Stoppers leads to safer and healthier communities.”
The study released by the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association was the fifth commissioned since 2013. Findings from the most recent study indicate that illegal products could account for upwards of 20 per cent of the cigarette market in New Brunswick. The findings are statistically consistent with previous studies.
“Twenty per cent market share is an awful lot of cigarettes,” says Hammoud. “Just think of the tobacco tax revenue that the government is losing. That’s lost revenue that could be supporting a lot of social, health and education programs here in New Brunswick. The public needs to be more involved in assisting in the reduction of illegal tobacco sales because there are meaningful benefits for law-abiding individuals.”
The research was based on collecting and examining cigarette ends, or “butts,” from 28 sites across New Brunswick in the first half of June. More than 4,000 cigarette ends were collected and analyzed, with the presence of illegal cigarettes ranging from 2.5 per cent to 33 per cent. Overall findings are considered to be accurate to within 3.4 percentage points 19 times out of 20.