New study shows illegal cigarette sales should be a concern to everyone
St. John’s, NL [October 6, 2015]: New research commissioned by the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association shows that illegal cigarettes could account for more than 10 per cent of all cigarettes smoked in Newfoundland.
“This is the second year that we’ve studied the prevalence of illegal cigarettes in Newfoundland and both studies indicate that it’s likely more than 10 per cent,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the association. “That’s way too high a number.”
The research findings are based on almost 3,000 cigarette ends collected in mid-September from 21 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 more than 25 of these studies across Canada.
The prevalence of illegal cigarettes at the 21 sites ranged from zero to a high of 26.4 per cent along George and Adelaide Streets in St. John’s. Twelve per cent of the cigarette end samples collected from outside the provincial government’s own Confederation Building were illegal.
David Button is CEO of St. John’s-based NARL Marketing, whose business activities include the Orangestore chain of gas and convenience outlets. He says that a recent seizure by police highlights how big the illegal cigarette business is.
“Police discovered and seized 100,000 illegal cigarettes at the end of September during a traffic stop near Grand Falls-Windsor,” says Button. “That shipment represents more than $28,000 in lost tax revenue for the provincial government. And that was only one shipment.”
Button says that there are other serious problems associated with illegal cigarettes in addition to lost tax revenue.
“First of all there is no manufacturing quality control with illegal cigarettes and these sales are benefiting criminals. That’s a real health and safety issue for communities.”
“Secondly, we’re wasting resources going towards discouraging youth and young adults from smoking. Thirdly, honest, hardworking and legal retailers are being hurt by these illicit sales.”
“It’s been proven in other provinces that getting tough on illegal cigarette traffickers is a good way to reduce the flow of illegal product,” says Hammoud. “The convenience store industry strongly believes that the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government should look at enacting tougher legislation.”