By Jennifer O’Brien, The London Free Press
Saying illegal smokes are linked to a range of burning problems, from increases in kids’ smoking to more guns on the street, an anti-contraband tobacco group is turning to the public.
The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is launching a campaign Wednesday asking people in Southwestern Ontario’s tobacco belt and the rest of the province to help police snuff out “the growing problem” by reporting tips to Crime Stoppers.
“Basically, we want to stop the contraband activity in our neighbourhoods, make them a lot safer,” said Jacqueline Bradley, the coalition’s executive director who got involved after her 15-year-old daughter brought a cigarette in a zip-lock bag home from a party.
The RCMP estimates about 175 organized crime groups are involved in the contraband tobacco trade. Crime Stopper stats show about one-third of cigarettes bought in Ontario are contraband, but last July that percentage spiked to 42%, said Gary Grant, a former police officer who works with the coalition.