Province creates new enforcement team to combat contraband tobacco

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Ontario is taking action to combat contraband tobacco and keep our communities safe by creating a new Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team within the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

Located within the OPP’s Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, the new team will be dedicated to investigating the smuggling and trafficking of contraband tobacco and will work closely with local, provincial, national and international enforcement agencies to combat and eliminate sophisticated contraband tobacco networks across Ontario.

The team will also work with the Ministry of Finance’s tobacco tax enforcement staff by sharing information and collaborating on contraband tobacco enforcement investigations. The Ministry of Finance will continue to provide tobacco enforcement through audits, inspections, and investigations.

Tobacco consumers should be aware that:

  • All legal cigarettes sold in cartons or packages have a legal yellow ‘ON Duty Paid Canada’ Ontario tobacco stamp, with only certain limited exceptions.
  • It is illegal to buy, possess or distribute untaxed cigarettes without proper authorization.
  • Punishment includes civil penalties, fines, and in some cases, jail time, depending on the quantity of contraband tobacco and conviction history.

Addressing contraband tobacco continues to be a priority for Ontario. Low-cost, contraband tobacco undermines provincial health objectives under the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy, results in less tobacco tax revenues for critical public services our communities and families rely on, and compromises public safety through links with organized crime.

  • On June 1, 2011, the Supporting Smoke-Free Ontario by Reducing Contraband Tobacco Act, 2011 became law.
  • This new enforcement team fulfills a commitment from the 2015 Budget.
  • Since 2008 more than 252 million contraband cigarettes, 4.1 million untaxed cigars, and 169 million grams of untaxed fine-cut or other tobacco products have been seized by the Ministry of Finance.
  • The RCMP estimates that 175 criminal organizations are involved in contraband tobacco in Canada, and it is believed that many use it to finance more serious illegal activity, like drug and weapon trafficking.
  • Being caught in possession of a single pack of 20 contraband cigarettes will cost the purchaser $108.The fine for 50 cartons or baggies is $4,693 and possession of any more could send you to jail.
  • Anyone can anonymously report cigarettes being sold illegally, to Ontario Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 FREE, or online at TipSoft.

“Combating and eliminating contraband tobacco is a priority for our government and what the new Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team is all about. By strengthening the enforcement partnership between the OPP and the Ministry of Finance, we are taking a major step forward in breaking the link between organized crime and contraband tobacco and making our communities safer.” Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services

“The OPP’s dedicated Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team will conduct thorough and professional investigations to disrupt contraband tobacco distribution and the enormous revenues which fuel further criminal activities.” J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes, Commissioner, Ontario Provincial Police

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