From: Toronto Sun
Candice Malcolm, Special to the Toronto Sun
As the Ontario Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne desperately looks for revenue tools to fund new projects and meet its commitment of balancing the budget by 2018, it is overlooking a very obvious source of revenue: Forgone taxes from the sale of contraband tobacco products.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates that in Ontario alone, the provincial and federal governments lose as much as $1.1 billion annually to missing tax revenues from the contraband tobacco trade.
Other estimates put the price tag closer to $2 billion; money that would be much better spent going towards balancing the budget or helping to improve our province’s failing transportation infrastructure.
However, the contraband problem in Ontario runs deep, beyond just lost tax revenues.
The well-established networks that produce and sell untaxed tobacco are not just evading taxes, they are also circumventing laws written to protect and deter young people from smoking.
Instead of seeing pictures of decaying teeth and cancerous lungs on the sides of cigarette packages, children are buying cigarettes in clear baggies, at a fraction of the price of taxed cigarettes and bypassing proof-of-age laws.
A 2009 study by the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco demonstrated that of cigarette butts analyzed from 110 high schools in Ontario, 30% were contraband.
Young people – the very people tobacco laws are designed to protect – are some of the top customers in the contraband market.