|Ontario has the worst contraband tobacco problem in Canada- about 1 in 3 of all cigarettes purchased in the province are illegal. Contraband was highest in Northern and Ottawa/Eastern Ontario, where illegal cigarettes represented 51% and 36% of all cigarettes purchased. About 1 in 4 cigarettes in the GTA and 29% in Southern Ontario were illegal.|
While non-smokers don't care, perhaps they should. The Ontario government is losing out on $700 million to $1.1 billion annually in taxes. Criminal gangs are involved in cigarette distribution across the province. Organized crime treats cigarette smuggling like a cash cow because it’s been low risk and high profit.
|The gangs get about 60 percent of the profits, which undermines the theory that First Nations communities are the main beneficiaries. The market is huge, much bigger than the market for drugs. The Ontario government has been slow to react to the problem. Quebec amended its Tobacco Tax Act, granting local police full authority to conduct investigations and allowing them to seize the proceeds of crime.|
Smoke shacks line Route 132 in Kahnawake, a Mohawk Territory, west of Montreal.
|Under section 87 of Canada’s Indian Act, the personal property of a registered or status First Nations individual living on a reserve is exempt from taxation. Ontario’s Tobacco Tax Act includes a First Nations cigarette allocation system which permits First Nations individuals to buy allocation cigarettes on a reserve, for their exclusive use. Those cigarettes are exempt from Ontario tobacco tax. Who can, and cannot, purchase cigarettes from First Nations retailers is spelled out clearly in the act.|