Sunday, May 14, 2023

Illegal cigarettes moving west

Trafficking in illegal cigarettes, a huge business in Central Canada, has moved west. So say former cops working in illicit trade prevention for the tobacco companies. They’re fighting back but it isn't easy when legal smokes cost $135-$180 a carton, but 200 cigarettes sell on the black market for $35. Last week West Kelowna RCMP seized 30,000 packs of smokes. In January Vernon cops lassoed 1.5 million contraband cigarettes. In February, B.C.’s gang police seized drugs, 34 firearms, illegal weapons, cars and 3,000 cartons of cigarettes in Dawson Creek. Around 25% of cigarettes in B.C. are bootleg and that is rising. Legal cigarettes are required to self extinguish when not in use. Contraband tobacco products don't have that feature.

Contraband tobacco to organized crime is just another commodity. It’s low risk, high profit, and penalties are light.