| Sep 23, 2010

Editorial by Jeff Green

On Tuesday, the Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington Public Health Unit announced they are holding a photo-op in Kingston to launch a new campaign against contraband tobacco. They will initiate the campaign by making a donation to Crimestoppers to support the “Illegal Tobacco – Report it” campaign.

The intent of the campaign is to make a dint in the statistics that show 60,000 students in Ontario smoke contraband cigarettes.

This is a new wrinkle in the anti-smoking campaign Public Health has undertaken in recent years. The organization has sent out periodic press releases as part of its enforcement role under the Smoke Free Ontario Act, press releases that named retailers who have been caught selling cigarettes to underage actors who were working for Public Health. The actors were not asked for the required proof of age identification when they purchased cigarettes from the offending retailers.

The workers who sold the cigarettes at these retail establishments were fined, as were the establishments themselves. In some cases, the larger companies that are affiliated with these businesses, such as Petro Canada, Shell, and Imperial Oil, were informed by the Health Unit of the breaches of the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

A number of retailers have complained that KFL&A Public Health seems to want to shame them out of the tobacco business. This would have the ultimate effect of promoting illegal tobacco over legal tobacco. If retailers stop selling legal cigarettes, the illegal market will become larger and more lucrative.

Meanwhile, both KFL&A and the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Units have been made aware of over the counter illegal cigarettes that are being sold at locations on Highway 7, one in Frontenac County, and one in Lanark County

This has been the subject of articles in this newspaper, and both Health Units were called and asked about the sale of these cigarettes, which sell at less than one third the normal market price for cigarettes. The response was that the smoke shops are in compliance with the Smoke Free Ontario Act, and they required ID before selling cigarettes.

The News was told that the legality of the cigarettes themselves was the concern of the RCMP, not Public Health.

The RCMP said they “do not investigate private businesses.”

So, it is with some degree of scepticism that we greet the news that after spending years trying to embarrass legal establishments out of the cigarette business for minor breaches of the Smoke Free Ontario Act while ignoring the fact that contraband tobacco is being sold in plain view, Public Health has suddenly discovered that contraband tobacco is an issue in Eastern Ontario, and wants people to start calling Crimestoppers.


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