BC Crime Stoppers to crack down on illegal cigarette sales – Okanagan

To combat growing concerns about the buying and selling of illegal cigarettes, BC Crime Stoppers is launching a province-wide public awareness campaign aimed at highlighting the threats posed by contraband tobacco.

“The contraband tobacco trade is a multi-billion dollar cash cow for organized crime and people, whether they like it or not, need to realize that when they buy contraband tobacco, they are actually funding the organized crime,” said Weldon LeBlanc, executive director of BC Crime Stoppers. .

The Okanagan has been named one of the province’s hotspots for illegal cigarettes, along with Vancouver and Surrey.

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“We’re talking all over the Okanagan region, from Osoyoos all the way to Kamloops,” LeBlanc said.

“That’s a lot of complaints specifically from the convenience store industry that report a lot of activity and steady activity in the contraband tobacco trade.”

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The provincial government reports that in 2019, more than five million illegal cigarettes were seized during an undercover investigation conducted in partnership with local law enforcement.

The seizure would have saved the province $1.4 million in potential lost tax revenue. During this operation, approximately 3.6 million cigarettes were seized in Surrey, 1.6 million in Vancouver and 82,000 in Kelowna.

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“What people also need to realize is that tax revenue is important to fund a lot of the social programs we depend on. So when you have a trade as big as the contraband tobacco trade, it makes a significant dent in the revenue coming into the province.”

LeBlanc said the driving factor that drives consumers to buy illegal tobacco is low cost.

“The price of legal cigarettes is increasing over the years due to tax increases. The difference between a carton of legal cigarettes and illegal cigarettes is very appealing,” LeBlanc said.

According to the provincial government, retail outlets are regularly inspected to ensure retailers are not selling contraband goods.

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Mark M. Gagnon