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:
- Offer for sale;
- Possession for the purpose of sale;
- Distribution; or
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.
Department of Justice Canada