Despite substantial evidence of having dealt a winning hand to contraband tobacco traders, the Senate and the House of Commons have quietly passed legislation mandating plain packaging for cigarettes sold in Canada.
It now awaits only the rubber stamping of royal assent.
Plain packaging has been an abject failure in Australia, the first country to adopt it as a strategy to reducing smoking rates, as well as in Great Britain where smoking rates not only increased following its introduction but where cheaply-priced black-market cigarettes since flourished.
At my neighbourhood Quickie store in Ottawa, for example, a legal carton of 200 Du Maurier cigarettes is $126.47 — upwards of 70% of that cost represented by the trio of excise, federal and provincial taxes.
At the nearest First Nations reserve in Ontario, a baggie of 200 unmarked, untaxed cigarettes can be purchased for as little as $10, with a premium-packaged carton of 200 smokes often selling for less than $30.
For those addicted to nicotine, living on a fixed income, or just wanting value for the dollar, it’s a no-brainer.
With the introduction of plain-packing, the contraband traffickers will get another leg up, since customs and excise authorities, as well as law enforcement, will have no way of knowing if that pack of cigarettes visibly sitting in plain sight on your car’s dashboard is real or counterfeit.
Ditto with cigarettes sold in convenience stores.
Federal and provincial governments are already losing billions in sin taxes annually to the contraband tobacco trade, with organized crime having all but perfected their trap lines for moving contraband tobacco throughout the province of Ontario and into other provincial jurisdictions.
As written here recently, the Mohawk reserve of Tyendinaga, halfway between Montreal and Toronto, its on-reserve population only 2200, has 31 “smoke shacks” selling cheap Native-produced cigarettes illegally to the non-status crowd — no questions asked, including proof of age, and with every Ontario law against advertising tobacco products ignored.
Oddly, the new legislation will allow advertising for nicotine-vaping products, or e-cigarettes, as long as they’re not compared to the real deal.
Tyendinaga, by the way, is not without its forward thinkers. It already has 26 illegal pot dispensaries openly pushing bud, oils and cannabis edibles.
And they do it with virtual impunity. They know the RCMP and the Ontario provincial police won’t dare enter their territory for fear of provoking another clash similar to Oka, Ipperwash or Caledonia.
A Smoking Toolkit study in Great Britain, published coincidentally with Ottawa passing its plain-packaging legislation, shows smoking rates have increased since plain packaging was introduced a year ago, by some 350,000 adult smokers.
This measure, said the study, was also a key factor that made 25% of British smokers, some 1.9 million, turn to cheap illicit cigarettes.
This, of course, is not good news to Big Tobacco, which is heavily regulated, heavily taxed, and heavily limited by a ban on advertising.
“Recent evidence shows plain packaging appears to be failing in the U.K., as well as everywhere else it has been introduced,” said Giles Roca, head of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association. “It appears not to be delivering the health outcomes it was claimed it would bring while proving to be a boon to the black market by encouraging smokers to buy from illicit sources.”
There are no angels in Big Tobacco, of course, but the devil is always in the details.
Unlike Big Tobacco, contraband tobacco funds organized crime, which funds the purchases of narcotics, which funds human trafficking and which funds today’s terrorism.
And all without the need to pay a nickel in taxes.
It’s quite the business plan.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies