The Canadian government says it’s ratcheting up its efforts to combat contraband smokes. The feds announced a series of new initiatives Friday on the heels of a lashing from advocacy groups who say they haven’t done enough. Those measures include creating an RCMP-led unit dedicated to fighting contraband tobacco.
The Canada Border Services Agency is also establishing a sniffer-dog service in Montreal and Vancouver, areas that have the highest contraband activity.
There will also be an advertising campaign to raise awareness of the impact of buying illegal smokes. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the additional initiatives should help stem the flow of contraband.
Earlier this week, the federal government was given a thumbs-down for its efforts by the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco.
The advocacy group said the government has failed to keep illegal cigarettes out of the hands of youth and failed to educate people about the impact of the illicit tobacco trade.
Cigarette smuggling is often linked to financing organized crime, which uses the profits in the drug and weapons trade. But the numbers show that police are seizing more and more of the illegal smokes.
According to 2009 RCMP statistics, 975,000 cartons of illegal cigarettes were seized across the country, up slightly from 965,000 cartons in 2008.
The anti-contraband coalition said that the illegal smokes trade, which makes up about a third of the Canadian market, costs about $2.4 billion a year in lost taxes.
Friday’s announcements come from $20 million set aside in by the Minister of National Revenue to combat contraband — money from a lucrative settlement with two major Canadian tobacco companies in July 2008 over smuggling.
The initiatives are in addition to a task force on illegal smokes created in May 2008 and a recent agreement with the U.S. to keep a closer watch on shared waterways.