The province is being urged to crack down on the smuggling and dealing of untaxed contraband tobacco.

The province is being urged to crack down on the smuggling and dealing of untaxed contraband tobacco.

Illegal smokes widely available in B.C., survey finds

Province urged to crack down on contraband tobacco smuggling, dealing

Contraband or counterfeit cigarettes that avoid government taxes and are often sold to teens are much more readily available in B.C. than Alberta, according to a new study.

Illegal smokes made up 15 per cent of the discarded butts sampled at sites across B.C., including schools and hospitals, compared to 10 per cent in Alberta.

The survey was commissioned by the Western Convenience Stores Association, which wants the province to crack down on the illegal sales.

WCSA president Andrew Klukas admits his members have a motive to get more customers in their stores, but insists it’s in the public interest.

“To see this going on across the street from us, to see these products being sold without tax to kids, without any age testing or any controls, is extremely frustrating,” Klukas said.

The rate of illegal tobacco found in butts discarded at B.C. schools was 15.5 per cent, the highest in western Canada.

Surrey’s Tamanawis Secondary had the highest rate among B.C. schools – 19.7 per cent of discarded butts there were illicit smokes.

The rate was nearly 39 per cent outside the Passport Canada office in downtown Vancouver, nearly 32 per cent at UBC and about 25 per cent at Terrace’s Mills Memorial Hospital as well as a federal government building in Surrey’s Newton area.

The association argues high taxes and other government regulations have encouraged the underground tobacco business, where consumers can get cigarettes on the cheap.

“A lot of people are using these products and they simply don’t understand it’s not victimless,” Klukas said.

Besides the estimated $120 million a year in lost government tax revenue, he said the trade helps fuel organized crime in B.C. and across the country.

Most of the unauthorized smokes sold in B.C. are produced on aboriginal reserves in Quebec or Ontario and are smuggled across the country, Klukas said.

He said B.C. could follow other provinces and let municipal police forces keep the proceeds of crime, giving them a financial incentive to tackle smuggled smokes.

Klukas also argues the province’s finance ministry doesn’t have enough staff pursuing fraud investigations.

“Get some more boots on the ground and it will pay for itself,” he suggested.

The top 10 B.C. cities with the highest rates of illicit cigarettes found were: Vancouver at 28.7 %; Richmond at 21.2 %; Terrace at 19.8 %; Surrey at 17.6 %; Prince George and Prince Rupert, both at 14 %; Langford at 13.1 %; Chilliwack at 13 %; Kamloops at 12.2 %; Victoria at 11.6 %; and Port Coquitlam at 11.1 %.

Klukas said the WCSA is not lobbying government to reduce tobacco taxes, but argues they can’t be increased further without first getting control of the problem.

Finance ministry spokesman Jamie Edwardsen said B.C. will be requiring all legal cigarettes be sold with a new Health Canada stamp that makes them easier to distinguish from unauthorized ones.

Provincial fraud investigators have an illegal tobacco tipline that accepts anonymous reports at 1-877-977-0858.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

Two people on a paddleboard take advantage of a calm Cultus Lake on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Forecast calls for lots of sun in Fraser Valley this coming week

Most of next seven days will be sunny for eastern Fraser Valley, according to Environment Canada

gdffdg
Mission’s Fraser Valley Music Award winners credit hometown with fostering musical talent

Rebecca Sichon won the pop-category award; Roads Unknown took home the roots-category award

BCCDC photo.
16 school exposures in Abbotsford schools in 2 weeks

Fraser Health’s list grows by 11 for 2nd week of 2021

Ron Restrick lives with mild cognitive impairment, but has worked to stay active and engaged in his community.
Abbotsford residents invited to Alzheimer Society webinar

Session on Wednesday, Jan. 27 looks at dementia and long-term care

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

(Photo by Kevin Hill)
40 cases linked to Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

Fraser Health says two death are associated with the outbreak

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Most Read