Contraband tobacco bill sets mandatory minimum sentences

New 50-officer RCMP anti-contraband force fulfils 2011 Conservative campaign pledge

Tobacco store in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory.

Tobacco store in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory.

CBC News, Mar 5, 2013

The Harper government has introduced legislation to set mandatory minimum prison sentences for trafficking contraband tobacco.

A new 50-officer RCMP anti-contraband force is also being created to target illegal tobacco sales.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq are expected to meet reporters at 15:30 ET on Parliament Hill to discuss the federal government’s strategy to combat the cross-border smuggling of contraband tobacco and crack down on its distribution.

The new bill, introduced earlier Tuesday afternoon in the Senate, creates a new Criminal Code offence for trafficking in contraband. The maximum penalty for a first offence would be six months imprisonment for a summary conviction and five years in jail for an indictable offence.

“Contraband tobacco fuels the growth of organized criminal networks, contributing to the increased availability of illegal drugs and guns in our communities,” Toews says in a press release distributed by his office.

Repeat offenders would also receive mandatory minimum penalties when a “high volume” – defined as 10,000 cigarettes or 10 kg of other tobacco products – is involved in the crime.

The specified minimum jail times in the new bill are:

  • 90 days incarceration for a second conviction.
  • 180 days incarceration on a third conviction.
  • Two years less a day for subsequent convictions.

The release says the goal for the new RCMP force is to have a “measurable impact” on reducing contraband tobacco and combating organized crime networks, in line with the RCMP’s existing Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy and other federal enforcement measures.

“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,” the health minister says in the release.

The 2011 Conservative election platform called contraband tobacco “a massive black-market industry” that “results in huge losses in revenue.” It also said that by encouraging smoking, contraband “leads to higher health care costs and higher rates of smoking-related illness and death.”

The Harper government created a task force on illegal cigarettes in 2008 and has reached joint agreements with the U.S. to crack down on smuggling across the shared border.

Earlier anti-contraband initiatives have been funded from the $20 million set aside from a lucrative July 2008 settlement with Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans Benson & Hedges, in which the tobacco companies admitted to aiding smuggling operations.

Posted on March 5, 2013, in State Security Forces and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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