Dave Bryans speaks at city council on June 11, 2012.
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Illegal cigarette sales are on the rise in the city, says the CEO of a retailers association.
Dave Bryans, CEO of Ontario Convenience Stores Association, made a presentation to city council on Monday urging them to support a motion to eradicate contraband tobacco. He said contraband tobacco is a growing problem in every community and added that other municipalities, such as Ottawa, Windsor and North Bay, have all passed similar motions.
Bryans told council that the distribution and sale of contraband not only hurts small businesses and government through tax evasion, but also contributes to organized crime and the deterioration of the community.
“It’s the scourge of every community,” Bryans said. “It’s infiltrating our seniors’ homes, our high schools and your places of business. It’s gotten out of control. The city of Thunder Bay has seen a major increase in contraband tobacco usage in recent years.”
The city’s close proximately to First Nation communities and Manitoba makes it a potentially ideal location for trafficking illegal cigarettes.
“Thunder Bay has become a hot bed for contraband tobacco and I think we need to look at it more seriously.”
Bryans praised the work of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit in dealing with this issue and mentioned that a study compiled by them shows 70 per cent of local high school students who smoke use contraband tobacco.
Thunder Bay Police chief J.P. Levesque said it was the first time he had heard that number, and added that it was disturbing. But the chief still added that he believed the number appeared a bit high.
“We are involved with the RCMP, the OPP and the district health unit in a campaign involving this,” Levesque said.
“We are, not to my knowledge, seeing white vans pulling up to schools and unloading contraband tobacco products. They are obviously for sale in proximity to our community.”
The chief added that it was difficult to deal with the issue because getting a search warrant for property outside of city limits was a significant challenge.
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