Ontario has a big problem with illegal and unregulated tobacco.
During the pandemic lockdown earlier this year, supply chains for criminals who traffic illegal tobacco were disrupted. As a result, many smokers returned to licensed tobacco retailers, who sell in accordance with restrictions and conditions mandated by government. This not only resulted in increased business for law abiding businesses, but undeniably increased government tobacco revenue as consumers were forced to pay all taxes applied to legal tobacco sales. However, the black market has since returned and once again the Government of Ontario is losing millions to organized crime.
To effectively counter the illegal tobacco market the Ontario government must look at doing two important things in their upcoming budget.
First, make investments in enforcement measures across Ontario to crack down on the illegal market of contraband tobacco. Such measures should include increased fines and sentences for those caught trafficking and shutting down organized crime groups profiting in the sale of black-market tobacco.
Second do not increase provincial tobacco taxes on legal products sold by licensed retailers as long as unregulated tobacco continues to be so widely in Ontario.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put unexpected pressure on government to rebuild our provincial economy. Cracking down on the illegal tobacco market will not only help small business, it will also increase the provincial treasury at a time when it is most needed.
Ontario can no longer afford to lose $2M every day to the black market. Its time to “Stop the Losses”!