A new study for the Ontario Convenience Store Association says 46.1% of tobacco products being consumed in the City of Belleville are illegal.
Province-wide, upwards of 40% of tobacco products consumed are considered contraband, which the OCSA says is causing a number of issues.
OCSA CEO Dave Bryans tells Quinte News “while no cigarette is a healthy cigarette”, the pattern of buying illegal tobacco is one of a few factors hurting small business owners that sell those products.
Bryans adds the province is losing close to $400 million in taxes and small businesses are losing upwards of $1 billion per year in sales, because the pattern of buying illegal tobacco is a growing and widespread issue.
And, he says, given that most of those illegal products are coming from Aboriginal reserves like the Tyendinaga Territory, that makes the issue extremely hard to deal with, especially heading into an election year.
Bryans says Ontario needs to follow Quebec’s lead, as that province has seen its rate of contraband tobacco consumption drop to 15%, after dedicating more money and resources to stopping the flow of illegal cigarettes.