From: Seaways News
Eight new Cornwall billboards are taking aim at city residents who smoke contraband cigarettes.
The Ontario Convenience Store Association (OCSA) is adding the new signs to the Seaway City in an attempt to convince smokers of the dangers, both physical and economical, the smuggled smokes create locally.
“Governments have told us that education was a key tool in the war on illegal cigarettes,” said Dave Bryans, CEO of the association. “Our goal with these billboards is to educate the public and draw their attention to the fact that contraband tobacco is illegal and comes in many forms.”
Illegal cigarettes come in many forms and packages, including pack formats and plastic baggies.
Some are partially or untaxed, removing millions in tax revenue and many are illegally manufactured in Canada or smuggled into Canada from the United States. People caught with even one bag or pack of contraband cigarettes can be subject to fines up to $2,500.
But many large scale fines can be reduced by courts, and those convicted are often given many years to pay them off.
Still, Bryans wants to ensure the message is being received. He suggested small-business people are suffering, not to mention young people who pick up the habit.
“Illegal tobacco not only harms small businesses in Cornwall, it harms the community by bypassing the tough regulation and age-checks designed to prevent minors from getting access to tobacco,” said Bryans.
As many as one-third of cigarettes smoked in Ontario are contraband and the RCMP indicates that profits from these sales are often being used by criminal organizations to finance other serious activities. In fact, RCMP figures state that at least 175 organized crime groups are using contraband smuggling to fund other criminal enterprises such as drug and weapons trafficking.
Ontario’s Auditor General has added that contraband tobacco is costing Ontario more than $500 million a year in lost revenues.
The RCMP has said the contraband tobacco market is “a serious threat to public safety.”
The OCSA is running two different billboards in Cornwall over the next month. One highlights the sophistication of the illegal tobacco industry by informing people that illegal cigarettes come in many forms, including traditional cigarette packaging and plastic bags. The second billboard highlights the fines people face if they purchase contraband tobacco.
Cornwall billboard locations include Brookdale Avenue, Eleventh Street and Tollgate Road.