The Government of Canada introduced new get-tough penalties to help stop the distribution of contraband tobacco in Canada.

From the government Public Safety Canada website – OTTAWA, March 5, 2013 – The Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, and the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today announced increased efforts to keep our streets and communities safe by keeping contraband tobacco off Canadian markets and out of the hands of Canadian children. These changes will advance the Government’s efforts to combat the trafficking and cross border smuggling of contraband tobacco by establishing a 50-officer RCMP Anti-Contraband Tobacco Force and by creating a new Criminal Code offence with mandatory penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders, many of whom are affiliated with other serious organized criminal activity such as weapons and illegal drug trafficking.

“Our Government is committed to keeping our streets and communities safe. Tobacco trafficking is a serious threat to the public safety of Canadians, our communities and our economy,” said Minister Toews. “Contraband tobacco fuels the growth of organized criminal networks, contributing to the increased availability of illegal drugs and guns in our communities.

The goal of the RCMP Anti-Contraband Tobacco Force is to have a measurable impact on reducing the contraband tobacco market and on combating organized criminal networks. The new 50-officer Anti-Contraband Tobacco Force will target organized crime groups engaged in the production and distribution of contraband tobacco, to reduce the contraband tobacco market, and combat organized criminal networks. This initiative aligns with the RCMP Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy and builds on existing federal enforcement measures.

“Our government is committed to keeping contraband tobacco off our streets. Baggies of cheap, illegal tobacco can make it easier for children and teens to get cigarettes into their hands and start smoking, which obviously has a negative impact on their health,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “Tobacco use continues to be the most preventable cause of premature death in Canada, and we are committed to helping all Canadians in their fight against smoking. There is no place for contraband tobacco in our communities, and today is an important step in the fight against illegal tobacco, and the impact it’s having on young Canadians in particular.”

This Bill targets individuals whose activities involve the sale, offer of sale, possession for the purpose of sale, transportation, distribution or delivery of contraband tobacco including high volume amounts of contraband tobacco. The maximum penalty for a first offence would be 6 months imprisonment on summary conviction and 5 years imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment.

This Bill also proposes mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders where a high volume of tobacco products is involved. The threshold to be considered “high volume” would be 10,000 cigarettes or 10 kilograms of other tobacco products.

The mandatory minimum penalties on indictment would be as follows:

  • 90 days incarceration on a second conviction;
  • 180 days incarceration on third conviction; and
  • 2 years less a day on subsequent convictions.

The introduction of this legislation is part of the Harper Government’s Plan for Safe Streets and Communities, which is one of four priorities identified by the Prime Minister. This Plan focuses on tackling crime, victims’ rights, and fair and efficient justice.