The Ontario Convenience Store Association, the OCSA,  released an updated study of contraband cigarette butts found in random locations.

Research firm NIRIC identified 136 sites in Ontario where people smoked, including outside hospitals, schools, casinos, government offices, shopping centres and GO Train and other public transit stops.  NIRIC swept up cigarette butts and then sent them to a lab for analysis.  A typical cigarette butt sweep would gather 134 butts.  Overall, 18,000 cigarette butts were swept up for analysis.

The highest incident rate of 46% of the total butts swept were deemed contraband came from the Rideau Carleton Raceway of the 136 Ontario locations swept.

Of the 23 regions studied, the Ontario average was found to be 21 percent or approximately one in five cigarettes were found to be illegal.

Dave Bryans, the President of the OCSA, described that the illegal cigarette trade hurts the province in numerous ways, including lost taxes, proceeds of crime that benefit organized crime, and the unchecked sales of tobacco to minors.  His members are responsible for collecting the tobacco taxes at both the federal and provincial level as the price of cigarettes sold in his member stores account for all taxes.

Mr. Bryans added “What governments want, and what everyone should want, is to get all tobacco smokers into the legal market,” he says, “and then we can figure out how to collect more taxes, make sure cigarettes aren’t put in the hands of youth, and then we can work with governments and health units to educate people on the ills of smoking. “You can’t do that if they’re opening the trunk of a car and selling them to anyone of any age.”

In each of its past two budgets, Bryans indicated that the Ontario government has promised to beef up anti-contraband measures, by adding education campaigns and extra enforcement, including the seizure of bank accounts, “but so far,” he says, “nothing has happened.”

Contraband cigarettes are those where government taxes and duty are not paid. The majority come from aboriginal reserves in Ontario and New York, where they are legal to be made, sold and consumed, but not transported off-reserve. It was estimated in 2011 that contraband tobacco is responsible for over $2 billion in uncollected tobacco taxes.  As each year passes, these lost taxes are unrecoverable.

Bryans indicated that there were more than 150 criminal gangs are involved in the smuggling and sale of contraband cigarettes in Ontario. A bag of 200 contraband cigarettes sometimes referred to as rollies might sell for as little as $10 to $15, while a similar number of legal ones retails at corner stores for more than $80. About $42 from each carton of legally sold cigarettes goes to provincial and federal coffers.


Incidence of contraband cigarettes found in Ontario sorted from highest to lowest:

1. Kitchener — 30.1 per cent

2. Brantford — 29.3

3. Barrie — 28.5

4. Windsor — 28.0

5. Belleville — 26.5

6. Orillia — 26.1

7. London — 25.3

8. Sudbury — 24.5

8. Niagara Falls — 24.5

10. Oshawa — 24.0

11. Kingston — 23.1

12. Brampton — 21.5

13. Hamilton — 21.1

14. Thunder Bay — 20.9

15. Huntsville — 19.1

16. Toronto — 18.7

17. Guelph — 18.1

18. Durham — 17.9

19. Sault Ste. Marie — 17.7

20. Brockville — 15.4

21. Ottawa — 13.4

22. North Bay — 11.0

23. Cornwall — 10.5