Halton Crime Stoppers joins a coalition to stop the sale of illegal cigarettes by gangs of criminals

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

November 23, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

There isn’t a parent out there that encourages their child to smoke. Some may tolerate the habit but by now we know that smoking is not going to improve your health – and while some think it is “cool” there is now far too much evidence telling even those who move their lips when they read that smoking will shorten your life span.

And yet cigarettes still sell – for $80 a carton which keeps many people away from the habit. Taxes have put a social habit out of reach for many, particularly young people who don’t have all that much disposable income.

But – the tobacco is addictive and there are those who have not been able to kick the habit. Create a market that is highly profitable and addictive enough and someone will find a way to serve the need.

Enter the criminal element – there are a reported 175 gangs in Canada peddling illegal contraband cigarettes at $8 to $10 for the equivalent of a carton. And targeting young people.

The hit to the federal coffers is bad enough – more than $2 billion a year in taxes that don’t get collected.

Crime stoppers anti smokes coalition

Norm Bellefontaine on the left and Gary Grant on the right with demonstration packages of illegal cigarettes that are being sold by criminal gangs to young people.

Some see the selling of illegal cigarettes as a “victimless crime” – that $2 billion that is not collected in taxes is money the governments cannot spend providing you with services.

So we have a product that is not healthy for you and expensive and is addictive as well. And now the criminals have put themselves into the business of selling the cigarettes.

Where is the pinch point? How do the police put a stop to the sale of cheap cigarettes and how do they get public support?

Enter Crime Stoppers – they provide an anonymous way for a parent to place a call telling where their child buys cigarettes. If enough people call Crime Stoppers the police begin to have enough data to figure out where the cigarettes are being sold and can do what they do best – apprehend criminals.

The crime of selling the illegal contraband is a difficult one for police to do all that much about – the selling of a product without collecting the tax is seen as a tax problem – it has only recently been made a part of the criminal code – and truth be told it isn’t one that many people get excited about.

Guns and hard drugs keep the police busy enough – who is going to bother with someone selling bags of illegal cigarettes?

That has been the problem – knowing that 42% of the cigarettes sold are contraband and illegal gives you some idea as to how big the problem is – the profits from the sale of contraband cigarettes becomes the seed money for other criminal activities.

Gary Grant is the national spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco. He is also a decorated retired police officer with the Toronto Police Service and current director and founder of Toronto Crime Stoppers.

Crime stoppers poster

Crime Stoppers is a safe anonymous way to inform the police that you believe a crime has taken place.

Gary’s career in policing started in 1968 when he joined the Toronto Police Department right after high school. His passion for community policing saw him assume a wide range of positions while working in law enforcement including stints as Staff Sergeant with the Public Complaints Investigation Bureau, Co-chair of the Toronto Police Chinese Consultative Committee and Aboriginal Consultative Committee as well as Staff Superintendent of Operational Services.

As his career grew, his leadership and success saw him assume roles with increasing responsibility including that of Interim Deputy Police Chief for the Toronto Police Service in 2005. Gary is a passionate supporter in the fight against contraband tobacco, and has been a vocal proponent of increased government intervention and involvement in the cause.

The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is a Canadian advocacy group formed with the participation of businesses, organizations and individuals concerned about the growing danger of contraband cigarettes. They share the goals of working together to educate people and urge government to take quick action to stop this growing threat.

The Halton unit of Crime Stoppers is working with the Coalition and running an educational program and using the Crime Stoppers service as a platform parents can use to pass along information.

Hopefully it will work.  The telephone number to call should you learn that your children are buying illegal cigarettes from criminals is on the poster above

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