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More than one million illegal cigarettes seized in New Brunswick so far this year


Since April 1, New Brunswick has seized 1,016,000 illegal cigarettes, at a value of about $259,300 in provincial tax and $160,900 in federal excise tax.

That’s a large increase when compared to the 2022-23 fiscal year, at which time 154,400 cigarettes were seized, valued at $39,400 in provincial tax and $24,400 in federal excise tax.

The Department of Justice and Public Safety says the increase comes after its ‘safer communities program’ focused on “more investigations, including illegal tobacco seizures.”

Public Safety Minister Kris Austin said there have been 27 charges laid in connection with this year’s seizures. If caught with illegal cigarettes, fines can range from $292 to $4,000.

“I am not going to disclose, of course, but we do have some ideas where it's coming from. And based on intel that we get, we can get some ideas of where it's going and that helps us do the investigation and eventually do the seizure and lay charges,” he said.

The department said in a statement the sale of illegal cigarettes “helps fund organized crime which is why the department has a renewed focus on addressing it.”

A department spokesperson said there is “no way” to determine how extensive the problem is in the province, but there has been a decline in the legal sale of cigarettes in New Brunswick, which can be attributed to the sale of contraband products, as well as other the use of other cessation products.

CTV News public safety analyst Chris Lewis worked on a two-year task force looking into cigarette smuggling in Ontario in the ‘90s.

He says it’s a decades-old issue, and one that’s extremely complex.

“If there is a decrease in legal sales, I'm sure it's not all because people are quitting smoking. So that must reflect the illegal products that are coming into the area at the same time,” he said. “So, I mean, we'd rather people don't smoke at all, but if they are smoking, cigarettes that ultimately are going to put money back in to health care and different things from taxation is probably a positive piece of the smoking world.”

He said, in the ‘90s, they were seeing cigarettes made in Canada shipped to the United States legally, and then smuggled back.

Lewis says they’re now seeing a number of companies legally making cigarettes in Indigenous communities to sell for personal use, but people are buying them in bulk and selling across the country.

“There's huge, huge money in it. And it's all about money. It's all about organized crime. It's just not your average Joe that is doing this,” he said.

Austin hopes the public takes note.

“People say to me, ‘Well, they're advertising on the side of the road, you know, $25 a carton. It must be legal,’” he said. “It is not.”

The department did specify, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no seizures in 2021-2022, because the province was controlling who was coming in and out of New Brunswick via border checkpoints, which had an impact on the illegal tobacco market. 

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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