Presence of illegal cigarettes at 11 high schools tested averages 26 percent
New Brunswickers are busy buying illegal cigarettes according to research findings released today by the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association.
Illegal cigarettes accounted for 24 percent of almost 4,000 cigarette ends collected from 27 sites across New Brunswick in late May/early June and analyzed. The presence of illegal cigarettes averaged 26 percent at 11 high school sites tested.
Overall findings are considered to be accurate to within 1.8 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
“Not only is the overall presence of illegal cigarettes way too high in New Brunswick, the illegal numbers at high schools are totally unacceptable when these youth shouldn’t even be smoking,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association.
“The provincial government just banned legal flavoured tobacco products, but that market is a drop in the bucket compared to the apparent use of illegal cigarettes by underage youth. Illegal cigarettes at one high school were almost 40 percent of the sample.”
The research work was done by NIRIC, an independent, Montreal-based research firm who has developed a specialized cigarette end collection and analysis technique. The company has completed more than twenty of these studies to date across Canada.
The latest study is the fourth commissioned by the association since 2013 to test sites in New Brunswick. The average presence of illegal cigarettes from all four studies is 20.9 percent.
“If there’s any good news it appears that the presence of illegal cigarettes doesn’t look to be trending higher,” says Hammoud. “The bad news is that the numbers are consistent in indicating that we have a serious illegal cigarette problem in New Brunswick.”
Ted Nicholson, a convenience store owner in Moncton, says that the total ban on flavoured tobacco products just passed by the provincial government is going to make the illegal cigarette situation worse.
“New Brunswickers obviously have no issues with buying cigarettes on the black market. The government has just created another opportunity for traffickers in illegal cigarettes because tobacco bans can’t be effective if you aren’t serious about cracking down on the illegal stuff.”
Convenience store retailers are encouraging the provincial government to get tougher with criminals selling illegal cigarettes.
“It’s a win-win from our perspective,” says Nicholson. “Youth access to cigarettes will be much harder because of both the supply and the cost, while adults have the choice of either quitting or buying legal products. If they buy legal products, then the government is going to collect more in tax revenue.”