Crack down on illegal smokes

Posted on April 23, 2011 in Health Debates

Source: — Authors: – opinion/editorials
Published On Sat Apr 23 2011.

Smoking in workplaces is banned, smoking in vehicles with a child is illegal and tobacco displays in convenience stores are a thing of the past. Since 2004, Ontario’s Liberal government has taken many important steps to reduce tobacco use and discourage young people from picking up the addictive and deadly habit.

While it has all helped — smoking rates have declined — tobacco still remains the leading cause of preventable death in Ontario.

The government’s new bill tackling contraband tobacco offers more modest change. It would set fines of $100 to more than $500 for people possessing contraband cigarettes; let the police more easily seize illegal products; and tighten some tobacco industry regulations.

Curbing contraband tobacco is a key component to reducing smoking. Illegal cigarettes account for more than 40 per cent of those smoked by high schoolers, according to one study. Not only does contraband feed criminal enterprise, but cheap cigarettes undermine one of the best tools the government has to keep young people from picking up the habit: price.

Much more still needs to be done, of course, to help the addicted quit and discourage others from ever lighting up. But new measures to make people think twice about buying contraband cigarettes and make it easier for police to crack down on the trade are well worthwhile.

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