Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

April 14, 2015 12:44 ET

Legislation to Keep Contraband Tobacco Off Canadian Streets Comes Into Force

Government of Canada is committed to keeping our streets and communities safe for Canadian families

MONCTON, NEW BRUNSWICK--(Marketwired - April 14, 2015) - Department of Justice Canada

Today, Justice Minister and Attorney General Peter MacKay and Robert Goguen, Parliamentary Secretary and MP for Moncton-Dieppe-Riverview, announced that the Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act has now come into force.

The new criminal law provisions advance the Government's efforts to combat the trafficking and cross-border smuggling of contraband tobacco by creating a new Criminal Code offence with mandatory penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders, many of whom are affiliated with other serious organized criminal activity such as weapons and illegal drug trafficking.

Cheap, illegal tobacco can make it easier for children and teens to get cigarettes and start smoking, which has a negative impact on their health and can result in life-threatening diseases. This law is in place to target criminals whose activities involve the sale, offer of sale, possession for the purpose of sale, transportation, distribution or delivery of contraband tobacco, including high-volume amounts of contraband tobacco.

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Canada is following through on its commitment in the 2013 Speech from the Throne to stand up for victims of crime, protect the most vulnerable members of our communities and hold offenders accountable for their actions.

  • There are now mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders where a high volume of tobacco products is involved. The threshold considered "high volume" is 10,000 cigarettes or 10 kilograms of other tobacco products.

  • As the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Canada, tobacco use is responsible for over 37,000 premature deaths annually.

  • Research has shown that the younger a person is when he or she starts smoking, the greater that person's risk of premature death.

  • The mandatory minimum penalties on indictment are now as follows:

    • 90 days incarceration on a second conviction;

    • 180 days incarceration on third conviction; and

    • Two years less a day on subsequent convictions.

Quotes

"Our Government is taking serious action in order to protect Canadians and their families. This new law will help to protect Canadians by recognizing that tobacco trafficking is a serious crime that threatens our communities and our economy. Those who commit such a crime, particularly repeat offenders, will face serious consequences, including mandatory minimum jail terms."

Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

"Our Government is encouraged by the latest statistics which show smoking rates at 15%, representing a historic low. Cheap, illegal tobacco can make it easier for children and teens to get cigarettes and start smoking, which has a negative impact on their health and can result in life-threatening diseases. I am proud of the steps our Government is taking to help keep tobacco out of the hands of our children.

Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health

"Contraband tobacco fuels the growth of organized criminal networks, contributing to the increased availability of illegal drugs and guns. By bringing this legislation into force, we are giving law enforcement the tools needed to protect the safety of Canadians and our communities."

Steven Blaney, Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

"We should be ensuring smoking rates are falling and enforcement of contraband tobacco is increasing. This Government is committed both the safety of the public and the health of all Canadians."

Robert Goguen, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General

Related Products

Backgrounder

Associated Links

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act

Follow Department of Justice Canada on Twitter (@JusticeCanadaEn), join us on Facebook or visit our YouTube channel.

BACKGROUNDER

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act

The Government has advanced its efforts to combat the trafficking and cross-border smuggling of contraband tobacco by creating a new Criminal Code offence with mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders. Many of these offenders are affiliated with other serious organized criminal activity such as weapons and illegal drug trafficking.

The amendments to the Criminal Code create a new offence of trafficking in contraband tobacco. Trafficking involves any of the following actions:

  • Sale;
  • Offer for sale;
  • Possession for the purpose of sale;
  • Transportation;
  • Distribution; or
  • Delivery.

Under the legislation, the maximum penalty for a first offence is six months imprisonment on summary conviction or five years imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment.

The Act also includes mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders where a high volume of tobacco products is involved. The threshold considered "high volume" is 10,000 cigarettes or 10 kilograms of other tobacco products.

The mandatory minimum penalties on indictment are as follows:

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

The Attorney General of Canada will be given concurrent jurisdiction with the provincial Attorneys General to prosecute this new offence. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada fulfills the responsibilities of the Attorney General of Canada in the prosecution of criminal offences under federal jurisdiction.

The provisions come into force as of April 10, 2015 by order of the Governor in Council.

In addition, the Government recently proposed regulatory amendments to the Tobacco Act to further restrict flavours used to market cigars that appeal to youth, and has introduced new, larger warning labels on packages of cigarettes and little cigars, which contain a national quitline phone number and a website address for people who want help quitting.

Since the inception of the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy in 2001, the Government of Canada has invested more than $650 million to help Canadians quit smoking and to prevent them from starting to smoke. With the five-year renewal of the Strategy in 2012, Health Canada is continuing to work on tobacco control initiatives that aim to preserve the gains made thus far and to continue the downward trend in smoking prevalence.

This legislation builds on and complements the Government of Canada's existing initiatives to combat this serious crime, such as:

  • Establishing an RCMP Anti-Contraband Force;
  • Investing $20 million, as announced in 2010, to help strengthen tobacco control.
  • Investing $91.7 million over five years, as announced in Budget 2014, to enhance the RCMP's ability to combat organized crime through the deployment of new technology to target cross-border smuggling.
  • Establishing a Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy to help front-line police officers to stem the flow of illicit tobacco-related proceeds of crime generated by organized crime.

Contact Information

  • Clarissa Lamb
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Justice
    613-992-4621

    Media Relations
    Department of Justice
    613-957-4207