EDITORIAL: Tax revenue up in smoke with contraband tobacco sales

Analysis of discarded cigarette butts shows troubling trend and lack of attention from Ottawa

The proliferation of contraband tobacco in Canada is nothing new, but it’s often an overlooked crime in the public realm.

It’s no surprise to smokers, but tax revenue on legally purchased cigarettes has been steadily rising for the past few decades with an average pack now costing $10.

Advocates like the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society say the increased cost is a win-win, as it boosts government revenue while incentivizing more people to quit the destructive habit because of prohibitive cost.

Kathryn Seely, the non-profit organization’s chief advocate for healthy public policies, told the Vancouver Sun in 2013 that higher prices can be particularly effective in quashing youth smoking.

“The youth who are price sensitive — it can cause them to not take up the habit,” Seely said.

Yet it appears more people are finding alternative ways to satisfy their nicotine habit by avoiding government gatekeeping altogether.

An analysis of hundreds of cigarette butts at five sites in Victoria and Saanich found up to 25 per cent were contraband, or illegal products. Finding a thrifty supplier seems to be the easy part, according to Andrew Klukas, president of the Western Convenience Stores Association, who conducted the analysis.

Klukas also pointed out 22 per cent of cigarette butts collected at Vic High were classified as contraband, which suggests teens are finding ways to avoid expensive legal cigarettes in favour of illegal products as well. A baggie of 200 cigarettes can sometimes cost only $10, Klukas said.

Klukas and his colleagues have a vested interest in locals purchasing cigarettes from their retailers, but the research suggests the B.C. government may be losing $120 million a year in tax revenue to illegal tobacco dealings.

That’s money going into the pockets of organized crime from elsewhere in the country and as far away as Asia, and it needs renewed focus from both federal and provincial governments.

This editorial appeared in the July 16 edition of Saanich News, and the July 18 edition of Victoria News.

Just Posted

Victoria shuttle service aims to use cruise ship waste as fuel

Pacific Northwest Transportation Services wants to have a zero emission fleet by 2026

Mainly cloudy, showers later on ahead for Wednesday

Plus a look ahead at the weekend’s forecast

Search underway as Our Place Society CEO Don Evans resigns

‘It’s time for me to takea break to recharge my batteries’

Victoria Police Department taking too long to respond to emergency calls

A new report says VicPD is not meeting its 911 response targets

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Dec. 10

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Tavares scores twice as Maple Leafs earn 4-1 win over Canucks

Vancouver sees two-game win streak snapped

UPDATED: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash: RCMP

Coroner confirms multiple fatalities after small plane goes down Tuesday night near Nanaimo

The Grinch who Stole a Hedge: Security camera captures Chilliwack tree theft

RCMP arrives as person calmly walks away with tree in downtown area

The Russell Troupe finds a comfort zone in small Island community

Family gathering with two parents and five kids a common scene around Chemainus

Salmonella outbreak in Canada linked to rodents and snakes

92 cases of salmonella across six provinces, including B.C.

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

Most Read